Laurel Fretz became the principal of Santa Monica High School (Samohi) as of July 1 after the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Board of Education unanimously approved her appointment at their June 30 meeting.
Fretz is coming to Samohi after serving for two years as the director of curriculum & instruction for the Centinela Valley Union High School District. Prior to that, she worked in the Jurupa Unified School District as a principal at Rubidoux High School and assistant principal of Mira Loma Middle School. Her other administrative experience includes being the Academy of Healthcare Science Coordinator and Curriculum Leader at Arcadia High School.
The Mirror spoke with board member Oscar de la Torre after Fretz’s appointment. He stated, “The school board understands that it is a challenging time for any educator to lead Samohi but we are confident Ms. Fretz has the experience and people skills to unite the campus and keep focused on providing and empowering the educational experience for all students, especially those students that historically struggled to meet our expectations. The board wants to provide her the resources and the appropriate team to get the job done.”
Another board member Laurie Lieberman “is looking forward to working with Fretz to address the issues Samohi needs to address such as internal communication, the role of discipline, and mentoring and team building among the administrators.” She then referred to the May 4 Samohi alleged hate crime incident that is currently under investigation by stating, “ it’s unfortunate something like this could happen but I’m sure the new principal along with the board will be using this as an opportunity to help the school grow and unify.”
The new principal is also well versed in the school district’s key goal of closing the achievement gap because she has experience improving student and teaching achievement by designing professional development around data-driven decisions for curriculum and instructional change. She developed an English Learners program, implemented evidence-based research to create collaborative Special Education classrooms, and worked with teachers to develop lesson plans targeted for students who were identified as kids in the middle.
Fretz also has administrative experience in district-wide professional development, standards-based curriculum, department and program budgets, creation of a fine arts program, student recognition, and community outreach.
Last April, Samohi’s former principal, Dr. Hugo Pedroza, announced through an e-mail to his faculty and staff that he would be leaving the school an the end of this academic year to take a position as an assistant superintendent in another district. Soon after the school district’s senior cabinet began a nationwide search for his replacement which ultimately resulted in the hiring of Fretz.