Q & A with South Tahoe High School’s new principal
For Thomas “Chad” Houck, South Tahoe High School’s newly appointed principal, moving to Lake Tahoe has been a long time coming.
The family man from Ridgecrest, Calif., has worked at Sierra Sands Unified School District for the past several years, serving in an administrative capacity at two different schools in the district.
However, Houck has had his eyes set on High Sierra living for more than a decade. And now, with the right position accepted, his goal will finally come true.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune caught up with Houck this week to talk about education and his desire to move to the basin.
Q: You served as an administrator for nine years at SSUSD schools. What was it about the STHS job that led to your decision to move?
A: For over a decade my wife and I have been looking to move to Tahoe. We’ve been watching for openings that matched up with where I was in my career. And when this position opened up, it felt like the timing was right. We investigated everything to make sure we could do it. We came up there and visited, toured the school and met with a real estate agent. And when we knew everything could work out it was a no-brainer for us to apply and move on it.
One of the things I said in my interview was, “I have a great job here in Ridgecrest. Everything’s good here. I wasn’t looking for a job. I was looking to come to Tahoe, and the right job came up.” And we’re really excited about it.
Q: I was actually going to ask if living in what is considered one of the most beautiful regions in the state had anything to do with it.
A: (laughs) You know, there were a lot of things for us when we were looking for where we want to move our family. We wanted to be able to get to a place that is close to the mountains. The snow is an important part of our lifestyle. But we also wanted to get closer to culture, closer to performing arts for our kids and closer to athletic opportunities for our kids. Tahoe is one of very few places in this country that kind of met all the requirements of what we were looking for to improve our quality of life.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your role as STHS principal?
A: It’s just the beginning, so I hope to be in Tahoe for a very long time and be able to contribute positively to the entire community and the culture of the school. We want to try to increase the number of students that are college and career ready, and we want to be increasing the number of students that are just having all around positive experiences. We don’t want it to be the best years of their lives; we want it to be the best years of their lives so far. So I’m just looking to come in there and keep supporting all of the things that are going really well, and there are a lot of those, and look to see over time how we can add in things or improve on the things we are already doing.
Q: What drew you to a career in education?
A: For me, I would have to say I started when I was working in college as a resident advisor in the dorms and as a tutor. Before that, ultimately, it was one of my high school mentors who recruited me to teaching. In high school, myself and a few of my friends kind of said, “You know, teaching would be a great profession as a second career. “I just so happened to be the only one out of my group of friends who made it my first career.
Q: The high school has recently undergone a massive makeover. What are some of your first impressions?
A: It is a place that I think all educators would want to work. It is a beautiful facility that has a college-like feel to it. It’s also a place that I believe the students should absolutely be proud of and love to be there. It’s phenomenal, it really is.
Q: Your contract begins August 1. How are you going to spend your summer?
A: Well right now we are trying to buy a house up there. Relocating is a big thing. But I actually have something I’m committed to; I’m running summer school down here in Sierra Sands as we’re piloting some new ways of approaching summer school offerings. Once that finishes up in mid-July, hopefully we’ve got our house and we’ll be relocating. And if I can start before August 1 on the job, that’s the way I want to do it. Even if it means volunteering my time, that doesn’t matter to me, that’s the right way to do it. I want to get up there and sink my teeth into it as quick as I can, get to know as many people as I can and start building those relationships.
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