The 15-year-old boy in Angela Haick’s juvenile hall class in San Jose had an S-shaped scar running down his cheek from a brutal attack by rival gang members. It was a mark that filled him with hate, and his violent history left him feeling little hope for the future.
A year later, the boy had graduated high school and completed one and a half years of community college classes. He dreams of one day being a probation officer or a teacher, so he can follow the same path of the role models who helped turn his life around.
“They made him see that there were more options in his life than the ones he was exposed to,” Haick said.
The success story is one of many that Haick, a University of La Verne graduate, has played a part in during her career in education. Her journey has taken her from the classroom to administrative positions throughout the state, a path she says has helped her gain the skill set necessary to become superintendent of the Penn Valley Union Elementary School District.
She began her new job in August.
But it was a move that almost didn’t happen.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1987 from San Diego State University and a master’s in educational leadership in 1992 from National University, she didn’t think she had the ability to take her education to the next level.
“I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it,” she said.
Raising two small children as a single mother, and working a job as an assistant principal at the Murrieta Unified School District at the time, Haick did not think she had the time either. Family members, along with a lot of motivation from La Verne faculty and alumni, helped. She entered the Doctor of Education program, completing it in 2003.
Haick credits La Verne alumna and former La Verne faculty member, Lou Obermeyer, and Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, adjunct instructor in organizational leadership, to convincing her to pursue her doctorate.
“Both of them insisted that I could do this,” she said.
Since then, she has worked as an elementary school principal for the Jurupa Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, and principal at Osborne Juvenile Hall in Santa Clara County.
During her career, she has survived cancer, divorce and the challenges of being an openly-gay single parent.
“She has overcome much adversity in her life. She is brave and courageous. I’m proud of her,” said University of La Verne professor Dr. Thomas Harvey, one of Haick’s instructors.
Haick’s varied experiences in urban and rural school districts, along with her forward thinking and compassion make her the perfect person to serve as a school superintendent, said Dr. Nancy Fischer, a retired human resources administrator who also received her doctorate from La Verne.
“Most importantly, she has a gift for understanding and nurturing the needs of all children,” Fischer said.
In her new position, Haick oversees a district that has 700 students in four schools. Penn Valley is a Northern California community northeast of Sacramento.
And even though she has taken the helm of a small school district, she has big plans.
She believes the self-doubt she overcame to return to school is a lesson she can instill in her students. Haick hopes she can teach them to discover their potential, and that their lives can be different one day.
Haick wants to eventually work on a college dissertation committee and teach in higher education.
La Verne’s emphasis on community engagement is another element she plans to bring to her new role as superintendent.
Haick wants to join Penn Valley’s Rotary Club. When she attended a meeting Sept. 9, she received a pleasant reminder of where she came from.
Longtime La Verne philanthropist, former Board of Trustees member and chancellor, Richard Landis, who lives in the Penn Valley area, heard about Haick’s new job and her alma mater. Landis, a member of the area’s Rotary Club, sought her out.
“When he learned that I was a ULV grad, he was just tickled pink,” she said.