St. Francis High School welcomes new principal to campus

  Principal Theresa Rodgers and two students in leadership, Ashley Kyalwazi and Martina Penalosa. Photos courtesy of St. Francis High School

Principal Theresa Rodgers and two students in leadership, Ashley Kyalwazi and Martina Penalosa. Photos courtesy of St. Francis High School

This month, the halls at St. Francis Catholic High School are filled with fresh, new faces, eager for all the new school year will bring.
Among those new faces all the all-girls high school is that of Theresa Young Rodgers, the school’s new principal. Her favorite color is red, she loves spumoni ice cream and her favorite sport is women’s volleyball. She played the sport in high school.
But there is a lot more to this newly-married school administrator than meets the eye.
She is a woman of great depth of character. This is a good thing, because Rodgers comes to a campus facing some changes. During the last two years, several key staff at the school retired or relocated. A much-loved art teacher died in an accident off campus last December. Add new technologies, including iPads in the classroom, unstable economies and a changing world…it can be quite a challenge. But it is a challenge Rodgers is up to.
“Change can be difficult for some, and there are several new faces on campus this year,” she said. “(However), I believe that these changes are bringing rejuvenation to campus: new energy, fresh ideas and a different perspective. It is my goal this year to build relationships on campus, to get to know the students, staff and parents. I am very much looking forward to this.”
Rodgers believes in “educating the WHOLE child – that is: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically; the most important being the spiritual. I believe my job as an educator is to empower our young women to be the best version of themselves – to grow in holiness and to change the world.”
A California native, Rodgers earned her master’s degree and teaching credential from U.C. Berkeley. She earned her teaching credential from Chapman University and holds a bachelor’s degree in English a graduate of the University of La Verne in Southern Calif.
Right out of college, she taught English for two years in American Samoa, then came home to California to teach at Antioch and Clayton high schools. For the last nine years, she was the assistant principal at Dublin High School.
Rodgers will replace outgoing Principal Patrick O’Neill, who will take over the principal’s office at nearby St. Mary’s School in East Sacramento. He is delighted with the position, and is also pleased that St. Francis will have an outstanding new principal.
“We are blessed to have her,” he said. “Theresa is really ‘good people.’”
Theresa Young married the love of her life, Robert Rodgers, on her 40th birthday, last September. The couple honeymooned in Rome. Since her husband works in the Bay Area, the couple will relocate from Brentwood to a location that works for both of them.
Rodgers didn’t know about St. Francis High until she visited the Diocese of Sacramento website to look for a job for a friend.
“When I came across the principalship opening (at St. Francis), I jumped on it,” Rodgers said. “Once I got the job, I realized how many people from the Bay Area have connections to the school and how highly St. Francis is regarded.”
The Catholic faith is an important part of Rodgers’ life. “It is the center of my life,” she said.
In many ways, Rodgers feels that the position of principal at St. Francis High School is a divine calling. There are many signs. But one in particular got her notice.
While in Italy, the newlyweds picked up souvenir tiles to give to friends upon their return. They kept one to hang in a prominent place in their home.
“We were in Assisi, where Saint Francis – the actual saint – lived,” Rodgers said. “The tiles said ‘Pax et Bonum,’ which is Latin for ‘Peace and Goodness.’ When I interviewed at St. Francis (the high school), and learned the school’s motto is ‘Pax et Bonum’ … I almost got chills. So many coincidences.”
Rodgers is looking forward to the new school year with joy and excitement.
“St. Francis is rich in history and tradition. I am still learning about the traditions and the myriad opportunities our school offers our students in all areas,” she said. “There is no doubt that our girls excel in everything they do. What makes St. Francis so wonderful is the foundation of faith, which creates a unique and supportive campus community.
“This is my dream job!” she continued. “I have wanted to be a Catholic school principal for a long time and just needed the right fit. St. Francis is a perfect fit for me…The St. Francis staff has welcomed me with open arms. I had some wonderful transition time with Patrick O’Neill, outgoing principal, which was invaluable. He did an amazing job leading the school and was very gracious in sharing his knowledge and experience with me.”
St. Francis High School has a standard to which each Troubadour strives: The Four Pillars. These are: Faith, Excellence, Leadership and Service. As the school moves forward, Rogers sees the first pillar, Faith, as a foundation stone as well.
“I want each of our young women to understand her dignity as a child of God,” Rodgers said. “I want our young women to have a better understanding of their own unique God-given gifts and talents, through which they will change the world. I want them to have a strong, articulate understanding of the Catholic faith and to grow in their own spirituality.”

Kennedy students compete in Rotary speech contest

This year’s Rotary Club theme is “Reach Within to Embrace Humanity,” and that is exactly what Daniel Li did Thursday morning, Feb. 9, at the Aviator’s Restaurant located at the Executive Airport.

REACHING WITHIN, Kennedy High School upperclassmen Daniel Li and Simon Lal (left to right) competed in the Rotary Club of Pocket-Greenhaven’s annual speech contest. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Sally King

REACHING WITHIN, Kennedy High School upperclassmen Daniel Li and Simon Lal (left to right) competed in the Rotary Club of Pocket-Greenhaven’s annual speech contest. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Sally King

Li, a junior at Kennedy High School competed against Simon Lal in the annual Rotary Speech contest. His speech touched on the shallowness of society as a whole.

“I looked at the theme and I wanted to get looser with the style of my writing,” Li said. “This year’s theme took a lot of thinking and it was a fun process.”

Li lives in the Greenhaven Pocket area and said he plans on getting a business degree and might follow the footsteps of his two older brothers who attend UC Berkeley. The Rotary Club awarded him first place with a gift of $200.

Lal, a senior at Kennedy High School said he wants to become a stunt director and actor. His theme was being true to self and others. Lal lives in South Sacramento. He received $100 for his speech.

“I decided to be in the speech contest because I tend to be shy and sometimes stutter and slur my words,” Lal said. “I figured this would help me improve my public speaking.”

Speaking well in public takes years of practice and begins with experience. These are two reasons the Rotary Club has an annual speech contest for young people. The Rotary Website explains the contest is an opportunity to spread the themes and motto of Rotary, “Service Above Self.”

The Rotary Club rules state contestants must be in grades 9 to 12. The speaker must give a five to eight minute speech without displays, prompts or prompting. The speaker must convince listeners how he/she will reach within and find their inner strength to accomplish great things within their community and around the world. They are allowed to use notes for the first round, after that notes are not allowed.

There were three judges; Linda Whitney, retired principal of Caroline Wenzel Elementary School, Terry Thomas, retired teacher from Alice Birney Elementary School and Marilee Bellotti, retired principal of Holy Spirit Parish School.

Li advances to the Area 4 Level Semi-final Contest to be held Thursday, March 29 at 7 p.m. in the SMUD auditorium.

The winner of that contest advances to the District Level Contest, held at the Grand Sierra Resort, Reno Nev. on Saturday, May 19. The district level first place award is $1000 and second place is $700.

Principal Erik Swanson leaving Sutter Middle School

Erik Swanson, principal at Sutter Middle School, will be the new chief of talent and professional development officer for the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Sacramento. He will leave his position at Sutter Middle School on Sept. 19.

According to a press release issued by Rick Maya, director of Catholic Schools at the Diocese, Swanson will be responsible for attracting and retaining top principals. Swanson will be involved in creating new procedures for the evaluation, development and support of diocesan administrators and teachers. Maya explained that Swanson’s duties include serving as a personnel manager as well, to provide greater resources for the Catholic schools.

Swanson said this is a really tough opportunity.

“I am so happy with the staff and community at Sutter,” Swanson said. “They are second to none and I will miss them dearly.”

He said the opportunity to work as the new chief overseeing 46 schools makes the best use of his skill sets.

“At this stage of my career, I could not pass it up,” Swanson said.

Gabe Ross, chief communications officer for the Sacramento City Unified School District said Swanson is going be missed.

“Vice Principal Cristin Tahara-Martin will be the interim principal,” Ross said. “There is no doubt the school will run smoothly until the new principal is hired.”

Ross said they are working on finding Swanson’s replacement. A meeting has been set up on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. to discuss with parents and staff what characteristics they want in the new principal.

37th annual Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour to showcase five ‘Fab 40s’ Sacramento homes

One of Northern California’s most loved walking holiday home tours returns this December with five elegantly decorated homes in East Sacramento’s historic Fabulous Forties neighborhood open for viewing. This year, in addition to the five beautifully decorated homes, the library at Sacred Heart’s brand new “state-of-the-art” school will also be decorated and on display.

For 37 years, this popular tour has grown to include nearly 5,000 patrons from throughout northern and central California. The homes showcase elaborate renovation while preserving historic design, custom interior design and creative holiday décor that is surely to ignite the spirit of the season. Homes on the tour this year range in style from a quintessential craftsman bungalow to an illustrious colonial revival.

“We are very excited about the homes we have on the tour this year,” said Leslie Lopez, parent and one of the home tour co-chairs. “Not only do we have a wide variety of decorating and architectural styles, but the new school library will be open for viewing and themed after the classic novel, ‘The Secret Garden.’”

This year’s talented local interior and floral designers will include: Haus by David Randall, Twiggs Floral Design Gallery, East Sac Florist, Impressions Designs, Inspired Interiors and Holiday Home.

The Holiday Home Tour is one of Sacred Heart Parish School’s biggest fundraisers. Proceeds from the tour go directly to the school to offset tuition and provide financial support to families who might not otherwise be able to afford a Catholic education.

This year, now more than ever, additional funds are needed as Sacred Heart has seen the percentage of families requesting assistance nearly double – from approximately seven percent of children at the school just three years ago to approximately 13 percent this school year.

“In this economy, it has become essential that we have our financial aid fund for more and more families,” said Theresa Sparks, principal of Sacred Heart Parish School. “Many people who were contributing financially through sponsorship and donations are now in the position of having to ask for help. We would not be able to offer families the help they need if we didn’t have the fundraising that we do.”

Tour dates are Friday, Dec.3 through Sunday, Dec. 5. Tour tickets are $25 in advance, $30 after Dec. 2. Tickets may be purchased online at www.shpsholidayhometour.com and at the following locations:

  • Sacred Heart Parish School
  • East Sacramento at Haus, East Sac Florist, French Hen, Talini’s, the Pink House and East Sac Hardware
  • Central Sacramento at Gatherings Gift Shop
  • North Sacramento at Emigh Hardware and Emigh Casual Living
  • South Land Park at Collected Works
  • Citrus Heights at Calico Corners
  • Folsom at Hoshall’s Spa
  • Rocklin at Pottery World and
  • All area Mercedes Benz dealerships (Rocklin, El Dorado Hills, Sacramento).

Visit www.shpsholidayhometour.com or call the Holiday Home Tour Information Line at (916) 556-5050

 

 for more information.

Monument to the past: Cabrillo Club structure was once the old Sutter School

 

Many people who pass by the old Spanish mission-style building at 4605 Karbet Way in the Riverside area admire the historic structure, which is home to Cabrillo Civic Club #5. But only a small number of these people know what was located in the building prior to the arrival of this Portuguese-American club.

Sutter School was located in this Riverside area Spanish mission-style structure, which has been home to Cabrillo Civic Club #5 since 1954. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Sutter School was located in this Riverside area Spanish mission-style structure, which has been home to Cabrillo Civic Club #5 since 1954. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Much of the reason for this lack of knowledge is the fact that it has been more than a half-century since any commuter passing by the building has seen anything other than the local Cabrillo Club.

It was in 1954 that the building, which had been left vacant, became home to the local organization.

Several of the people who are most familiar with the history of the building prior to the arrival of the Cabrillo Club were contacted and interviewed last week.

These people were: Rose (Ishimoto) Takata, Alice (Da Rosa) Powell, Elvira (Da Rosa) Jacobs, Doris (Lopes) Yager and Dolores (Silva) Greenslate.

Jacobs, who now resides in Dixon, said that she spent many days at this site attending Sutter School, which was located in the building from 1915 to 1952.

“I went to Sutter School (in the building where the Cabrillo Club is now located along the route of the old Riverside Road, about a half-mile south of Sutterville Road),” Jacobs said. “I’m 88 years old and I was a student there when I was 6, 7 and 8 years old. What I remember was that on Riverside Road, there were a lot of Japanese farmers, so there were a lot of Japanese children in the school.”

Takata, who also attended Sutter School, said that many of the school’s former students who are around to tell the story of Sutter School today are in their 80s and do not remember as many details about the school as they used to recall.

Nonetheless, Takata, who was one of the six children of Sehei and Chiyo Ishimoto, was very helpful when it came to sharing information about the school such as details regarding the heavy Japanese presence in the school.

Schoolchildren gather in front of Sutter School in this c. 1925 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Schoolchildren gather in front of Sutter School in this c. 1925 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

 “(At times), the school was almost 90 percent Japanese, maybe 80 or 85 (percent),” said Takata, who named Yaeko Muramoto, Ruth Imoto and Constance Satmalo as a few of her former classmates. “And most of the Japanese (children) who went to Sutter School went to the Japanese school afterwards. It was only about (a block) away, but there were no blocks of course, but it was just down the road (where Weber Way is located today). There was the Machados’ (ranch), then there was an empty lot, but it was (close to Sutter School). I don’t think there was a Japanese (student from Sutter School) who didn’t go to the Japanese school. So, we all went and we spent about an hour there. They taught us how to read and write and they taught us culture, too. Our parents wanted us to preserve our culture. The (Japanese school) did stress culture a lot.”

Jacobs, who also attended the school, said that when thinking back about her Japanese classmates, she recalls a unique year at Sutter School.

“I was the only Caucasian and the only girl in my eighth grade class,” Jacobs said. “The other kids were Japanese.”

Greenslate, a historian of the Riverside-Pocket area and a former student at the school, said that Sutter School students who were not Japanese were Portuguese, except in very rare cases.

One such exception was an Italian girl, named Hilda Barsanti, who was in the same class as Yager.

Yager, 90, who was the only child of Manuel and Gloria Lopes, said that she has very fond memories of attending the school.

“I enjoyed going there (to Sutter School), but I didn’t know any better,” Yager said. “I was a little country girl. But no, I really did enjoy going there, because I had no one to play with and when I got there, I did have people to play with and walk with and talk to and all of that. So, I enjoyed it tremendously being an only child. It was nice to be out amongst my peers and not with older people.”

In addition to having new friends to play with, Yager said that she also enjoyed a piece of playground equipment that was located behind the school.

“They had this ride that was called the ‘Ocean Ride’ or something like that,” Yager said. “It was sort of like a merry-go-round, but you didn’t sit, you stood. It was round. The thing that really stands out in my mind is I don’t ever remember seeing anything like that. You would stand and there was something where you would hold on with your foot and kind of make it move around. I remember I loved getting on that thing.”

Takata, who was raised on a chicken farm near Sutter School, said that she also remembers the same piece of playground apparatus, which was built around the trunk of a large tree.

“(Yager) is right, but I can’t remember the full name (of the ride),” Takata said. “It kind of went up and down like an ocean, like the sea.”

Through the responses of some of the five former students who were interviewed for this article, it was discovered that the school grounds also included a baseball diamond, teeter-totters and swings. Children also found plenty of spots to play jacks and marbles.

Takata said that there was another feature on the school grounds that she fondly remembers.

“I remember that there was a real big, beautiful rose bush at the front of the school in the yard,” Takata said. “If you faced the front of the school, it was to the left, right next to the Machados, who lived next door.”

Yager, who mentioned Sutter School’s annual Christmas plays among her favorite memories of the school, added that most of the schoolchildren walked to Sutter School, since riding a school bus was not an available option.

Students of Sutter School gather for this 1921 photograph with their teacher, Miss Blackwell (third row, third from left), and Gertrude Campbell, principal/teacher (left of Blackwell). / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Students of Sutter School gather for this 1921 photograph with their teacher, Miss Blackwell (third row, third from left), and Gertrude Campbell, principal/teacher (left of Blackwell). / Photo courtesy of PHCS

And for many of these children, walking to school was a social event that gave them additional time to enjoy the company of their friends.

But once at school, the school’s first through eighth grade students were required to become more serious as they concentrated on their studies.

After lining up in front of the school, near the flagpole, the children made their way into three separate classrooms, which were divided based on the grade levels of the students. Originally, however, the school had housed a single classroom for all of its students.

Most former students of the school remember Sutter School teachers, Gertrude Campbell (also the school’s principal) and Emma (Fortado) James. Other teachers at the school at various times were: Miss Blackwell, Leonilda Lewis, Miss Nealis, Miss Baird and Mabel Wakefield.

Like other former students of the school, Powell had nothing but good things to say about her teachers.

“Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. James were our teachers and I liked them very much,” Powell said. “They really were sweet ladies. They used (a ruler), but I don’t remember anybody ever getting hit.”

Greenslate, however, said that she remembers students getting tapped on the backs of their hands by the school’s teachers as a general warning “to be silent or to calm down.”

Takata, who attended the school from 1928 to 1936, named the classes that were offered at the school.

“We had music class every day.” Takata said. “Maybe so many minutes, a half an hour maybe. Mrs. Campbell played the piano and I can still (visualize) her playing the piano. And of course, we had geography and history. I don’t know how the teachers worked everything in. They must have had some kind of a schedule. I think we had math every day. Well, arithmetic, we didn’t call it math. And we had spelling every day and English every day.”

The students were also graded on penmanship and participated in physical education and drawing.

Takata added that she was very fortunate to have received her elementary school education at Sutter School.

“You know, you can’t get that kind of education any place else,” Takata said. “When I went to middle school and high school, I realized how much more I had gotten out of (Sutter School) than people who went to the regular city schools.”

Takata said that after school, when most of the students left to Japanese school, the school’s janitor arrived at the school.

The old Sutter School is shown in its abandoned state in this 1953 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The old Sutter School is shown in its abandoned state in this 1953 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

“The Masons also lived next door and (Louise Baggestos, grandmother of Sutter School students, Walter “Ike” and John “Griff” Mason) used to be our janitor,” Takata said. “We used to call her Grandma Mason. She was from the old country (possibly Germany), I guess. She spoke with a real strong accent and I could hardly understand her.”

Greenslate, who attended Sutter School from 1929 to 1934, said that the school, which sometime between 1925 and 1929 had two additional wings added to its original structure, served as an important bridge between the old Lisbon schools of the Riverside-Pocket area and John Cabrillo Elementary School at 1141 Seamas Ave.

“The founders of the private Lisbon schools of the Pocket were the farmers who settled in the area,” said Greenslate, whose mother, Maria “Mamie” Machado joined John “Griff” Mason as one of Sutter School’s first two graduates in 1915. “These schools were built in the mid to late 1800s into the early 1900s. As the population increased from the Pocket area into the Riverside area in farming and homes, it necessitated a need for another school, which was Sutter School, which was a public school of Sacramento County. Eventually, a more modern school with more extensive facilities, including a cafeteria, in the area was needed and the location of Sutter School could not provide this. This led to the construction of John Cabrillo Elementary School at its present site.”

Yager said that she is grateful that the old Sutter School building is still standing about a century after it was constructed.

“It brings back old-time memories to see the school today,” Yager said. “I think that that’s interesting that that place has been around as long as it has. And it has not changed much. They’ve retained the same structure all of these years. I’m glad that (the old Sutter School building) is still around.”

lance@valcomnews.com

Beautiful new building for Sacred Heart Parish School

 

 

A new schoolyear can be both a mental and emotional transition for children. A new curriculum, new teacher and new classroom can take some getting used to. But an entirely new school? Now that is a real transition. Such is the case for the Sacred Heart Parish School at 856 39th Street in East Sacramento. But it’s not just the students that will be dazzled with the new surroundings.

Students at Sacred Heart Parish School will pursue their studies in a brand-new, $16 million facility this academic year. The new building is located at 856 39th Street in East Sacramento. School begins on Aug. 23. / Valley Community Newspapers, Tom Paniagua

Students at Sacred Heart Parish School will pursue their studies in a brand-new, $16 million facility this academic year. The new building is located at 856 39th Street in East Sacramento. School begins on Aug. 23. / Valley Community Newspapers, Tom Paniagua

“It’s very exciting,” said Sacred Heart Principal Theresa Sparks. “The new school is absolutely beautiful.”

Some of the upgraded amenities include a high school sized gym (complete with a Vermont Maple floor), surround sound in every classroom and a computer lab with 36 computers. The school is made of brick to tie in with the Sacred Heart Parish Church. Construction was done in just over a year. Seventeen homes were moved from the new school lot and building began in July 2009.

The old school site was 75 years old and was falling behind the times, according to Sparks. It was just time for a change. The demolition of the old building began on Monday, Aug. 16 and will take two months to complete, according to Sparks. The lot will be converted into a parking lot for a new wing at Mercy General Hospital.

The old Sacred Heart Parish School in East Sacramento is being demolished to make way for a parking lot to support a new wing at Mercy General Hospital. / Valley Community Newspapers, Tom Paniagua

The old Sacred Heart Parish School in East Sacramento is being demolished to make way for a parking lot to support a new wing at Mercy General Hospital. / Valley Community Newspapers, Tom Paniagua

“The old school had a lot of charm,” Sparks said. “It’s sad to see it go, but the new school is very exciting. I’ve had people tell me that it’s as nice as some colleges they have seen.” 

In order to allow the children to get more acquainted with the new surroundings, Sacred Heart held an open house on June 5. Not everything was finished, so there were some things that the kids didn’t get to see. A second open house is set for Aug. 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when a truer experience can be had.

School starts Aug. 23 at Sacred Heart. The new $16 million facility will house some 310 students in grades K-8. Although the new school may be a transition for some of the children who grew up attending the old one, at least the school should not be difficult to find; it lies just across the street from the old one.

Kennedy High’s new principal focused on bringing back good campus culture, strong academics

 

Tall and lean, Chad Sweitzer had a contagious smile on his face as he begins to talk about his new role as principal of Kennedy High School.

Chad Sweitzer’s academic journey has come full circle, from his time as a student in the Greenhaven area to his new job as principal at John F. Kennedy High School. / Valley Community Newspapers photo by Sally King.

Chad Sweitzer’s academic journey has come full circle, from his time as a student in the Greenhaven area to his new job as principal at John F. Kennedy High School. / Valley Community Newspapers photo by Sally King.

“I want to bring back good culture, good athletes and a strong student curriculum,” Sweitzer said. “I am going to focus on meeting graduation requirements.”

Sweitzer was the principal at Sutter Middle School for three years. Prior to that he was assistant principal at Kennedy from 2004 through 2006. He has come full circle and said he is happy to be back.

Linda Okada, office manager at Sutter Middle School, said he will be sorely missed.

“Chad is unique in his administrative style in that he brings the no-nonsense demeanor of authority, the compassion and guidance of a counselor and the common sense of an educator whose experience is such that nothing surprises him anymore,” Okada said.

Sweitzer said he enjoys working with the students, getting involved in activities such as sports and rallies.

“I see Kennedy being very competitive this year in sports,” Sweitzer said. “We are back to the old metro system and great rivalries.”

Sweitzer grew up in Greenhaven, off Riethmuth Way. He attended Caroline Wenzel Elementary School and Sam Brannan Middle School. He graduated from Kennedy in 1990. Sweitzer lives in Elk Grove with his wife of 13 years, and two children, ages 10 and 6 years old.

Sweitzer remembers his physical education teachers and coaches mentoring him as a young student and from an early age he wanted to work in the field of education.

Sweitzer’s career began as a counselor at Luther Burbank High School. He said when the position opened up at Kennedy; he thought this was his chance to be back home.

“I want a personal connection with the students,” Sweitzer said. “I want students to be able to remember me as someone they can trust and have fun with. I enjoy being silly and goofy.”

Sweitzer said as part of the focus for graduation requirements, he believes early intervention articulation works to help students from dropping out of high school. He said when eighth graders visit high school and become familiar with the layout, the students and teachers, it is no longer a scary place and the transition is easier.

Sweitzer said the school has lost a tremendous amount of money due to budget cuts and will be looking to parents to help with school supplies and needed items like tissues.

Kennedy has a staff of 85 people and five school counselors. Sweitzer wants the staff to feel like a family. He said the teachers at Kennedy love to work with the students.

Kennedy has a program called ASSETS, which stands for After-School Safety and Enrichment for Teens and serves up to 250 students. Sweitzer said it is a great program that provides a study hall and tutoring, a safe place for teens to hang out after school.

“I want a school where students know that people care about them and there are high expectations of the students,” Sweitzer said.

Former students reminisce about McClatchy High’s first principal

For most students who attended C.K. McClatchy High School during the years 1937 to 1962, the name Sam Pepper is synonymous with the school itself.

Sam Pepper served as the first principal of McClatchy High School from 1937 to 1962. (Photo courtesy of McClatchy High School)
Sam Pepper served as the first principal of McClatchy High School from 1937 to 1962. (Photo courtesy of McClatchy High School)
After all, as the school’s first principal during these years, Pepper was a McClatchy original.

Pepper, a Denver, Colo. native and World War I veteran who moved to Sacramento in 1928, was present for the school’s dedication and opening in 1937 and so many other events, including the school’s first graduation ceremony and the 1948 championship football game against Sacramento High School.

And even after his retirement, he would delight former students by visiting with them at various McClatchy reunions.

Despite his death a quarter century ago at the age of 87, Pepper, who resided at 871 42nd St. with his wife Hattiebell and his children Robert and Sheila, continues to be a fond and very much alive topic among many alumni of the school.

 

Echoes through time

Donna (Machado) Hodson of the Class of 1956 recently shared her remembrances about Pepper.

“He was not just a wonderful principal, he was also a wonderful man,” Hodson said. “He was just always a friendly, loving, giving, sweet and very nice man. We never heard a harsh word out of that man’s mouth, but yet he had that school under control all those years he was principal. He came to anything that he was invited to and he was always there to cheer you on or back McClatchy. He loved McClatchy just as much as we did.”

Hodson added that Pepper was known to show his school spirit through his attire.

“He always had a red tie and red socks and he would always pull his pant leg up to show us that he had those red socks on,” Hodson said.

Rosalene (Correia) Nielsen of the Class of 1955 said that Pepper was responsible for choosing the school’s red and white colors.

“He told us one time that he picked the colors for McClatchy, because he thought they would show up against the green grass better than any other colors,” Nielsen said.

Like many other alumni, Nielsen has fond memories about Pepper.

“(Pepper) was just a really nice guy,” Nielsen said. “He knew everything that was going on in that school. If someone was not doing well, I would see him walking down the hall with his arm around the guy’s shoulder and when someone did really well, you would see him there shaking the guy’s hand. He was just always all over the place. He was just a great guy. I don’t know anybody who had a principal like him.”

Nielsen said that in appreciation of Pepper, some female students at McClatchy would knit him argyle socks, scarves and of course, red ties.

 

Friend, mentor – and funny

For some of McClatchy’s earliest students, having Pepper as a school principal was a longtime tradition, considering that prior to his arrival at McClatchy, at separate times, he served as principal of Newton Booth and William Land elementary schools and California Junior High School – now California Middle School.

Sam Pepper was known for his dry sense of humor, his school spirit and his strong interest in the progress of McClatchy’s students. (Photo courtesy of McClatchy High School)
Sam Pepper was known for his dry sense of humor, his school spirit and his strong interest in the progress of McClatchy’s students. (Photo courtesy of McClatchy High School)
Class of 1942 alum Lois (Lippi) Espigares remembers spending many years with Pepper as her principal.

“We had the same principal all through our school years, starting with kindergarten to junior high to high school – Sam Pepper,” Espigares said. “He was an excellent principal. He was (about 6 feet) tall and just a wonderful man.”

In addition to his time working at Sacramento schools, Pepper was an instructor and athletic coach at a school in New Mexico and a superintendent of schools in Oregon.

Lee Watters of the Class of 1947 said that he mostly remembers that Pepper was notorious for telling “dumb jokes.”

“He was a good principal, but mostly what I remember about him is his dumb jokes,” Watters said. “I do remember one of those jokes that he told. It went like this: These two guys are out there and here comes a whole flock of ducks. One guy says, ‘I wonder how many ducks are up there’ and the other guy says, ‘Well, there are 206 ducks up there.’ The first guy say, ‘Well, how do you know there are 206 (ducks)?’ The guy that told him how many ducks that were there said, ‘Well, I counted the legs and I divided by two.’ And that was a Sam Pepper joke.”

When asked how he has remembered the joke for so many years, Watters said, “He told the same jokes a lot and he told that one quite often.”

James Wycoff of the Class of 1950 said that Pepper would use his humor during school assemblies.

“There is only one line that I remember (Pepper) using with any frequency at an assembly,” James said. “He would say, ‘And the winner of this contest gets a year’s supply of dental floss.’ It was just a phrase he’d use to see who was paying attention.”

James emphasized, however, that there was much more to Pepper than his humor.

“Sam Pepper was well liked by the student body and I never heard a discouraging word about him,” James said. “He had a sense of humor, but he also had a sense of (respectability). He was in charge.”

James’ sister, Carol (Wycoff) Laquaglia of the Class of 1942, said that Pepper had a very unique, professional demeanor.

“(Pepper) was a man who commanded respect just by looking at him and by the way he carried himself,” Carol said. “Sam Pepper always came across as being very nice. You never saw him bawling anybody out.”

 

Memories of the man

John Gardner of the Class of 1956 said that the students’ respect for Pepper generally affected their behavior in a positive manner.

“That was back in the days when you respected the principal of the school,” Gardner said. “He had a way of communicating that if you messed up big time, he was very disappointed in you. And somehow that carried a lot of weight. The kids really looked up to him.”

Carol said that her mother, Alice Wycoff, who was the assistant manager in McClatchy’s cafeteria, spoke fondly about Pepper.

“She said that Sam Pepper used to come back there for something to eat and kid with (the cafeteria workers),” said Carol, who was later married to McClatchy teacher Nicolai Laquaglia, who worked at the school during Pepper’s tenure as principal. “He was just a different person and people respected him.”

During his time at McClatchy, Pepper had a philosophy about school and education that he described as follows: “The purpose of school is to help develop personality and develop proper traits and habits. These furnish the students with the central knowledge and skills to continue their education or to help them to cope with future life. The function of any school is to prepare any student for life.”

Ted Morris, who served as the student body president of the Class of 1955 during his senior year, acknowledged that the success of McClatchy and its students was very important to Pepper.

“(Pepper) just had a tremendous feeling of honor to the school,” Morris said. “The image of McClatchy was just paramount in his goals. He kind of felt that the students who left there were a reflection on him and he was always proud of the students who went on to the university to further education.”

In addition to his dedication to McClatchy, Pepper traveled extensively with his wife and was a member of American Legion Post 61, the Comstock Club, the Host Lions Club, Provident Masonic Lodge No. 609 and the Scottish Rite Bodies.

 

Committed to students, school service

In celebration of the life of Samuel Albert Pepper (February 15, 1897 to May 29, 1984), a special memorial was held in McClatchy’s auditorium on the morning of June 2, 1984.

Although Pepper no longer spreads his educational philosophy, friendly smiles and endearing “dumb jokes,” his legacy remains strong through the many McClatchy alumni who fondly remember him.

 

E-mail Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com.