Leader emerges in search for principal | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Leader emerges in search for principal

Jill Darby

Douglas County School District’s search for a new Whittell High School principal is nearing an end.

Superintendent Pendery Clark is recommending Mario Gatto to the Board of Trustees during its next meeting May 16.

If the board approves, Gatto will replace Dick Brownfield, who is retiring after graduation this year. The principal position at Whittell was filled four times after Brownfield’s 16-year run ended in 1991. He returned for the 2000-01 school year on a one-year interim basis to allow the district to find a principal who could commit to the school for at least three to five years.

Gatto, 36, is principal at Clark County School District’s Virgin Valley High School in Mesquite, Nev., where he served as dean of students for two years and assistant principal for three years before accepting the principal position last year. His career also includes teaching and athletic director positions.

“We went through an extensive interview process,” Clark said. “We had several parents and several teachers on the interview committee and (Gatto) was their top candidate.”

Douglas County School District sent a three-person site council made up of a teacher, a parent and District Personnel Director John Soderman to visit Virgin Valley Junior/Senior High School April 19. Impressed with what they saw, the district invited Gatto to South Lake Tahoe to meet with Clark and spend a day at Whittell April 24.

“He spent a couple of hours with me late in the day,” Clark said. “We have decided he is the person we want to recommend to the board. He has the type of experience that we’re looking for. He seems prepared for the various roles you have to serve as a principal of a small high school. He has strong teacher and staff relation skills, strong budgeting skills, strong administrative skills. Everything we were able to check into, he checked out and we’re very pleased.”

Gatto attended University of Nevada, Las Vegas and holds a master’s degree in education, as well as a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

Clark said she expects the board will approve her recommendation.

“I don’t expect any last-minute concerns or glitches,” she said. “He has made a commitment to us to stay at Whittell. He has indicated you need three to five years to implement the sorts of things you need to make a school the best it can be. He wants to live close to the school and be accessible and be a part of the community.”

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