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Principal Briquelet Reflects on First Year at Whitney

Whitney High School was recognized as a Gold Ribbon School. Principal John Briquelet (center) is standing with the award, accompanied by (from l-r) Counselor Sasha Leonardo, Dr. Rhonda Buss, Superintendent Mary Sieu, Dean of Students Craig Spratt, and Assistant Principal RoseEllen Shea.

 

By Julia Bok

Though Principal John Briquelet recently completed his first year at Whitney High School, he is not a newcomer in education. He has now worked for nearly thirty years in public education, starting his career in South Central Los Angeles before working at Tustin High School, Loara High School, and El Modena High School.

Under Briquelet’s leadership, several changes have occurred at Whitney. The school now boasts a new security system, a Student Union area where students can meet and rest on couches, and five water filling stations. Also, tables now have bright yellow umbrellas that provide more shade for students and work is underway to place an electronic marquee in front of the school.

This upcoming school year, Briquelet is determined to go beyond cosmetic improvements and take measures to create more collaborative time for teachers and to alleviate stress. He stated, “There aren’t major changes to be made at a school like this. Really what you’re trying to do is make little changes that will make life better for people.”

Briquelet expressed his admiration for Whitney. Since the school has a small student body that starts from seventh grade through twelfth grade, he has observed a family-like environment with older students mentoring underclassmen. Briquelet complimented the students and their families, “I have been really impressed by the character of our students. Not just by their academic drive, most of our kids are genuinely good people. When you have kids coming in who are genuinely good people, that’s developed at home.”

He also credited teachers, “When you have kids going great places, they don’t do it by themselves. There’s something going on and the teachers here are pretty amazing.” Briquelet recalled that when he first came to Whitney at the beginning of last summer, he was surprised to see many teachers on campus preparing for the new school year. He said, “That pressure to excel that the students feel, the teachers feel it, too.”

When thinking of ways to lessen stress at school, Briquelet stated, “If we can really have students excited about the learning and get them to want to engage rather than have to engage, I think that helps a great deal.”

He added that he’d like to help build more school spirit, saying, “You’re not going to remember the physics exam you took, you’re not going to remember the homework assignments, you’re going to remember the things that made memories for you — time with your friends, big social events, exciting things that happened like when the girls basketball team won the league championship and everyone was in the gym screaming. Those are the things that I’d really like to have the students involved in, in addition to the studying.”

Briquelet gave his final thoughts on his first year, “Overall, the experience has been great. It’s been a lot of fun. Anything from doing donuts with the staff to dressing up for spirit days to whatever else, it’s been great.”

Briquelet had an accomplished starting year and Whitney can expect more great things from its principal in the future.

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