Gilroy officials have turned to homegrown administrator Jeremy Dirks to bring back some stability to the principal’s office at Christopher High School, which is now on its third principal in as many years.
Dirks, who was promoted from his assistant principal’s position at South Valley Middle School to the top perch at Gilroy Unified School District’s marquee high school, wants to immediately inject his collaborative approach to leadership at CHS.
“My strength is building culture,” said Dirks, who crafted his own style after taking what he learned from several mentors including current Gilroy High School Principal Marco Sanchez and San Benito High School Principal Adrian Ramirez. “I believe we have the cream of the crop of teachers in this district, and I want to build relationships with them so we’re all moving in the same direction.”
Dirks is not the only new face at CHS; 13 new teachers are joining the 74-member faculty for the 2018-19 school term. He has a new assistant principal in veteran educator Eric Kuwada, who has been part at CHS since its inception, along with second-year assistant principal Julie Berggren.
“I’m super excited to work with staff and students,” said Dirks, a 1993 Gilroy High School alumnus who grew up on the town’s east side. “I feel more comfortable here because I was once one of these kids who are on campus. It’s an exciting time. … I grew up poor in Gilroy (but) I was always excited to come to school because I knew my teachers cared about me.”
The first day of instruction for all Gilroy schools was Aug. 16.
Dirks, who lives in Hollister with his wife and two children, started his career as a social studies teacher for 10 years at his high school alma mater, where he also was a varsity basketball coach and activities director. He then served as an assistant principal at San Benito High School and South Valley Middle School.
“I’ve had some great mentors along the way,” said Dirks, entering his 22nd year in education. “I’ve learned from the best.”
For the 1,650-student population, Dirks plans to be out on campus and at after-school activities interacting with them, as well as with staff members, to build that rapport of trust and caring.
“I just love all the activities that go on (at a high school campus) and I want to get out to see the kids. I want to be a presence on campus,” Dirks said. “I believe in shared leadership, not to do it in a bubble–shared leadership with our teachers and our students.”
Dirks plans to hold regular meetings with department chairs and ASB student leaders to hear about the issues going on from all perspectives.
“I want to hear their voices,” he said. “I believe CHS really is the crown jewel of Gilroy Unified School District.”