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New Our Lady of Malibu Principal Richard Nambu (right) poses with Our Lady of Malibu students (center) and third grade teacher Adrina Palacios during a meet and greet with teachers and students at the start of the school year. 

On the first day of the 2021-22 school year Our Lady of Malibu (OLM) School officially welcomed its first new school principal in 10 years: Richard Nambu. 

Nambu began reaching out to the parents, families and board members of OLM with a series of coffee meet and greets in August.

“In a new situation, you need to get to know your stakeholders,” he recently told The Malibu Times. “We have third generation students here—children whose parents and grandparents also attended OLM.” According to Nambu, he recognized the schools “great staff and traditions” and wanted to continue the legacy.

“The teachers are really caring and the electives and enrichment we offer are amazing,” he said, adding, “I’m excited to grow into the position and get to know the community.” 

Nambu—who goes by Rich—comes to the job with a long list of accomplishments in education. He was principal for 12 years at Walnut Grove Intermediate School in the West Covina Unified School District, and assistant principal there for two years before that. During his tenure, he “led the school from the bottom to the top of the district rankings in the five major district categories and goals: state test scores, grades, attendance, reading scores, and discipline rates,” according to his profile provided by OLM.

Prior to that, he spent 24 years in the LA Unified School District as the district math administrator of 15 secondary schools, after beginning his career with the district as a math coach and math teacher.

But besides education, Nambu has a second passion: youth ministry. Concurrent with his time at LAUSD, he spent years part-time in Highland Park as a successful youth minister and community organizer in the inner-city ministry of Faith United Presbyterian Church.

“My vision of a great school is one where the students can live productively with who and what they are, and the students accept each other and celebrate who they are and who other people are. At [the] public schools, kids didn’t look out for each other,” Nambu observed.

“My priority has always been to help students succeed in life as well as school. Ministry, supporting people’s growth spiritually, emotionally and socially, has been a passion and calling for my life in all that I do, and I will bring both parts of myself to OLM,” he wrote in an email.

“I’ve always wanted to do full-time ministry and help people in their faith. This is my opportunity to go, ‘Wow, I can do ministry and share my faith and pray with people [at school],’” Nambu continued. “I’ve wanted this for 38 years.”

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When asked if COVID-19 would be a challenge for the upcoming school year, he said, “The whole COVID experience has been so hard on everyone—Malibu and everywhere. Of course we want to keep kids safe, and last year, OLM was one of only three schools in the diocese [of Los Angeles] to have in-person classes. We want to be able to build on that with new technology to help kids, quote, ‘Have a more normal year.’”

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“OLM’s enrollment has actually grown since the Woolsey Fire, and it’s growing by the week,” Nambu responded when asked if declining enrollment had been as much a problem for them as it’s been for Malibu’s public schools.

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With handshakes and fist bumps, new Our Lady of Malibu School principal Richard Nambu says “hello” to his future students during a meet and greet event earlier this month.

He loved the fact that OLM class sizes are so small. “Having only 10 to 15 kids in a class is amazing. I used to have up to 45 kids in my algebra class in high school. Teachers here can really individualize a kid’s education.” 

Nambu received his BA in economics at Occidental College in Highland Park, followed by a teaching credential in secondary math and a master’s in educational leadership from Cal State LA.

Rich has three college-age children who continue to live in the family home in Glendora, while he and his wife have taken an apartment in Calabasas to be closer to Malibu. 

“It’s been a giant transition,” he said.

OLM School, founded in 1958, is private, Catholic, and co-ed from kindergarten through eighth grade, and accepts students from all religious backgrounds and communities.

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