Members of the Palm Crest Elementary School community can expect to see a lot of Principal Cory Pak today, his first school day at the campus.
Pak, who was approved by the La Cañada Flintridge Unified School District Governing Board as principal on July 17, plans to meet every student and greet each of them.
“You won’t see me in here,” he said in a recent interview in his spacious office on campus, which at the time was mostly empty except for a desk, table and some signs left behind by previous Principal Karen Hurley, who has moved to a district-level post. “I won’t be in the office. I’ll be where the kids are almost every day. But certainly on the first day.”
Pak is no stranger to the tasks of a principal — he was one at the Saugus Union School District’s Rosedell Elementary School from 2005-10, West Creek Academy from 2010-17 and Charles Helmers Elementary School after that. He already has goals for his newest assignment.
“My personal goal, really, would be to be very effective and the principal that the community will be proud and happy to be part of,” Pak said. “I think that’s the big goal. More importantly, I want my kids here to get to know me and feel comfortable and feel supported and interact with me in a fashion that they feel that they have someone they can trust and work with on their behalf.”
Jon Baker, a principal at Emblem Academy in the Saugus Union district in Santa Clarita, said he worked with Pak for about 17 years and considers him a friend. Baker said Pak is an excellent leader who is very collaborative and works very well with kids and school staff alike.
“I think the parents are going to really enjoy his leadership and the kids will really love him, too,” Baker said. The administrator said Pak enjoys going into classrooms and the schoolyard to ask children what they’re doing and what’s going on at school.
“I think La Cañada is very fortunate to have him,” Baker said. “We’ll miss him here and the students and parents (in LCF) are very fortunate to have him come aboard.”
Baker said Pak is very fair and known for his integrity.
“When you meet him, he’s someone you can trust and a genuinely very good person. He’s approachable,” Baker said. “He’s got a sense of humor as well.”
“I think when you deal with someone and you trust them and they’re a person of their word, that speaks volumes.”
Pak said another goal of his is to help Palm Crest continually improve on test scores with assistance from everyone from the school to the district office.
“That will be all of us working together,” Pak said.
He described his management style as leading through service, including stepping into a wide variety of roles depending on who needs support.
“You’ll see me assisting with car lines in traffic,” Pak said. “You’ll see me mopping the cafeteria when needed and when the custodian feels overwhelmed. You’ll see me out in the playground. Or you’ll see me in the classroom teaching as well. I think as a principal of a school it’s my job to understand and make sure that I can be of service to every single person working here.”
Pak said he feels that if he can make everyone at the school do their best, it will ultimately benefit children, which is the collective goal. He said he understands that parent groups, the PTA, teachers and others will be bringing requests and proposals to him.
“But my question to anyone who is going to ask me ‘Can we do this?’ or ‘Can we do that?’ will be just really seeing the purpose behind that and then asking what kind of impact does it have on children,” Pak said. “If the purpose is really to support our children and the impact is it has the greatest possible impact, then there’s no reason to not do it.”
Some of the reasons Pak wanted to move to LCUSD involve his family — his wife will be closer to her work and their two children will be educated in the district — as well as an opportunity for professional growth.
“I was a site administrator for the last 17½ years,” Pak said. “I see a growth opportunity professionally and to learn everything in a new district, even though it’s a similar position. I was principal at other places, the same position being at a high-performing and much sought-after district. It will give me the opportunity to grow within my own profession.”
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said Pak stood out among the 20 applicants for the opening because of his knowledge about curriculum, instructional strategies, school personnel and finance, and oversight and management of a school site.
“More importantly, however, his people skills were readily apparent,” Sinnette said. “I see him as a strong student advocate, someone who will support the needs and interests of our PCR families, and a principal who will be a responsive leader for the teachers and staff. His skills, talents, and personable nature seemed an excellent complement to the PCR school community.”