Ramona High School Principal Tony Newman and Olive Peirce Middle School Principal Linda Solis have been honored as regional principals of the year, Superintendent Bob Graeff announced Monday morning.
“These two honors for our local principals are major awards — as our region represents more than 700 schools and there is only one successful candidate per awards category,” Graeff said in his announcement. “But due to the outstanding service to their respective schools and their local community, Tony and Linda have earned this impressive distinction for the current school year.”
Newman and Solis learned of the honors from Region 18 of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) on Friday. Newman is High School Principal of the Year, and Solis is Middle School Principal of the Year for Region 18, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties.
In recognition of their achievement, ACSA with the California School Boards Association will host a recognition dinner, Honoring Our Own, on April 26, “where more than 600 invited guests will join in showing their sincere appreciation for their outstanding achievement,” noted Graeff.
“This is really unusual for two principals to be named from same district,” said Solis. “That speaks of Ramona’s entire leadership — plus it's a super fun thrill to do it with my best friend, Mr. Newman. That’s the cherry on top.”
Solis and Newman have worked together since she hired him as an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher in 1996.
“I gave that young man his first job — fresh out of BYU (Brigham Young University).”
Within five minutes of interviewing Newman, “I knew that young man was meant to be with kids,” she said.
It’s been nearly 24 years since Newman graduated from Ramona High School with the Class of 1989. He was sitting in a stock market class at BYU when, he said, he realized, “This isn’t what I want to do the rest of my life.”
He headed to the counseling office “and changed my whole major.” First, however, he took an aptitude test. The results? “I should be a singing truck driver or a mortician.”
“The counselor looked at me — is this what you want to do?” Newman recalled.
“Are there people who have made an impact in your life that you looked up to and respect?” the counselor asked.
“The names I kept coming up with were my teachers,” said Newman.
That decided it. He went into education.
Ten years after being hired as a middle school teacher, Newman was RHS principal. He credits Solis, saying he wouldn’t be the high school principal without her mentoring.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Newman said of the two of them being honored at the same time. “I’m where I am today because of Linda’s influence.”
Solis has been a middle school teacher or administrator since graduating from the University of Texas in 1969. She started at Olive Peirce Middle School as an eighth-grade English teacher in 1988. Some of her former students — for example, Cori McDonald and Jamie King — now teach in Ramona.