Chris Hertz

Chris Hertz, recently-announced principal of the new Malibu elementary school

At least one thing about the new Malibu elementary school is confirmed: the incoming principal, Chris Hertz.

Hertz, who has served as principal of multiple schools for more than five years each and as an elementary school teacher for six years, is “very excited” to transition into this new role. After a month long process of interviews and paperwork, he was officially appointed in a unanimous vote as principal at a May 2 Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting.

“I couldn’t think of a better job in the whole world for me,” he said at the time.

When asked about merging the two student bodies—and the parent communities in a later interview with The Malibu Times, Hertz said it was about “making sure that inclusivity is an expectation.” 

He went on to speak about making families—especially those newer to the district—feel welcome.

“Recently, I had a chance to start looking at some of the student needs from Juan Cabrillo,” he mentioned, adding his focus would be on getting to “their faces, their names.”

Given the combined student population of approximately 380 students, he expects this goal to be achievable. He currently works as director of school safety in the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which, he said, has fewer than 5,000 students.

When it came to Malibu school safety, Hertz had a number of initial ideas.

Earlier this year, the school district held meetings to discuss what the future of local campuses would look like. Parents in attendance held mixed opinions when it came to how best to promote safety and secure campuses, as reported previously by The Malibu Times.

“Every campus is different,” he explained. “Really, you have to do a security assessment of the school. You also have to work with your school site council in determining what the priorities are.” 

He did touch on the importance of visitor registration, and specifically, add more screening for individuals coming onto campus. 

And though safety “is a really big topic,” as he called it, nothing will be set in stone until construction is finished at the campus. The construction, which began on May 10 and has a completion date of Aug. 16, includes adding temporary portable buildings, conducting grading, and making changes to configure initial safety and traffic flow as part of phase one.

“One of the first things I want to do is get to know the local sheriff,” he said, adding that he wanted to know what resources were available to him. 

He did point out what resource not available to him: cell service.

“One of the challenges that I noticed on the campus: There’s virtually no cell service out there,” he said, mentioning the idea of reaching out to service providers to remedy the situation.

Hertz will take over leadership of the school, which combines Point Dume Marine Science School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School on the former’s site, officially on July 1. The appointment comes on the heels of a school year that has been all over the place in terms of school leadership.

Juan Cabrillo principal Dr. Pamela Herkner was initially brought on to head both schools last year, with the help of Phil Cott and Alan Friedenberg, who previously served as principals in the school district. Julie Siegel, a specialized academic instruction teacher at Juan Cabrillo, took over as assistant principal in January. 

Herkner’s retirement came in a surprise announcement in March. Later, it was shared that a former interim Malibu High School principal, Dave Jackson, assisted with the leadership at the two schools. 

Late last month, another former MHS interim principal—Patricia Cairns—took over as interim principal of the two elementary schools to finish out the 2018-19 school year.

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