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Los Altos School District names new Gardner Bullis principal


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

New Gardner Bullis Principal Courtney Cadwell greets a student on campus last week.

The Los Altos School District last week named Courtney Cadwell the new principal at Gardner Bullis School.

Cadwell has 18 years’ experience in education and has served in Los Altos schools for the past five years. She began this school year as an instructional coach for science, technology and mathematics in the district. In addition to teaching sixth and seventh grades, Cadwell was the first director of the district’s Living Classroom program.

“Courtney comes to Gardner Bullis with a stellar reputation and a deep and varied background,” said Superintendent Jeff Baier in a letter to parents. “The wealth of instruction and leadership knowledge, experience and expertise Courtney will bring to Gardner Bullis is truly exciting.”

She currently sits as a teacher representative on the education advisory panels of the Gates Foundation and the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation, which is affiliated with the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Cadwell played a key role in piloting the district’s Khan Academy program.

Cadwell applied to NASA’s Educator Astronaut program and made it to the final 99 applicants before being ruled out because of a minor medical anomaly. Cadwell said she maintains a good relationship with NASA and is actively involved in its education department.

When the principal position opened, Cadwell applied because she likes to take advantage of whatever opportunity comes her way. She replaces interim principal Linda Eckols, who stepped in when former principal Erica Gilbert resigned for a position in another district.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to use all the skills I had gained the past 18 years and use them in one position,” she said. “I like new challenges, and I really want to put my skills to use in one place and one community.”

Her first priority is to visit the classrooms to meet the teachers and students and then the parents.

“As I get a feel for the community, I will really be able to work with them to build a great vision for Gardner Bullis,” she said.

Cadwell said she makes many decisions using what she calls a “kid’s lens.”

“I am committed to students and their education,” she said. “Every decision I make, I use the kid’s lens to view the situation from the perspective of the students and their needs and what is interesting to them.”

The search committee selected Cadwell from among a large field of candidates. The screening team included Gardner Bullis parent Tara Dhillon. Several panels then interviewed the candidates. The first panel comprised Gardner Bullis staff members Sarah Koh, Pam Loebner and Cathy Voelker; Gardner Bullis parents Jennifer Galbraith, Brad Hauser and Toni Moos; Los Altos School District principals Nancy Davis and Amy Romem; and Assistant Superintendent Alyssa Gallagher. Baier and the district principals interviewed the finalists, and the board of trustees completed the process.

“Courtney’s experience, knowledge of curriculum and commitment to children and their learning impressed the members of the interview teams,” Baier said. “She will bring a wealth of knowledge and skill to both Gardner Bullis and to the leadership of the Los Altos School District.”

Letters of recommendation highlighted Cadwell’s many positive qualities. The comments reported that her “extraordinary skills and creativity, as well as her ethics and exceptional professionalism, would make her an ideal contributor to any organization” and noted that she has “exceptional depth of knowledge and incredible ability to connect with students.” One reference described Cadwell as “one of those rare individuals who can excel at any task put in front of her.”

Cadwell is scheduled to assume her new role this week.

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