SMUSD Expands Kurtenbach’s Role

Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK Huntington Middle School Principal Jason Kurtenbach, speaking with students on campus last week, is being promoted to San Marino Unified School District’s executive director of curriculum and development.
Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
Huntington Middle School Principal Jason Kurtenbach, speaking with students on campus last week, is being promoted to San Marino Unified School District’s executive director of curriculum and development.

Jason Kurtenbach will graduate as principal of Huntington Middle School this year, joining the San Marino Unified School District administrative cabinet as its executive director of curriculum and development.
The promotion, made official at last week’s Board of Education meeting, creates the third principal vacancy in three years for SMUSD. Kurtenbach is finishing his fifth year at HMS.
“It’s been an excellent five years,” he said in a phone interview. “If I can just get both jobs and stay here, that’d be great. I’ll be able to hopefully have an impact at every school site to a degree. I think it’ll be good, but I’ll certainly miss HMS.”
Kurtenbach will formally begin his new role on July 1, the beginning of the next school calendar year. He will assume the vacancy created by the retirement of Gary McGuigan (who also was an HMS principal previously) at the end of the prior school year.
Throughout that vacancy, Kurtenbach has absorbed much of the work related to that role, including leading the district’s LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) and coordinating the Single Plans for Student Achievement, Healthy Kids Survey Program and School Safety Plans. Superintendent Alex Cherniss said that made Kurtenbach a natural choice.
“Since Dr. McGuigan left, we knew he’d be a good candidate, so we tried to give him a lot of opportunities to learn,” Cherniss said.
Kurtenbach explained that his new job description is essentially to support curricular and instructional programs at each of SMUSD’s four schools by guiding their development and implementation, and also to ensure educational compliance for the schools. He said his continuing relationship with the district’s other principals will lend itself well.
Regarding his replacement, Kurtenbach said he likely won’t play a direct role in the selection process, but expects he will jump in afterward.
“It’s been really great being at HMS and I think this is going to be an opportunity for an enhancement there,” he said. “I will of course be supporting that person. Probably one of my primary responsibilities will be getting that person to know Huntington Middle School and San Marino, unless of course that person is an internal person.”
Cherniss said he plans to include community stakeholders in identifying sought-after qualities in the next HMS principal. Under Kurtenbach’s leadership, the school has ranked among the top middle schools in the state, most recently as the No. 2 school, based on the state’s evaluation metrics.
“I’m excited for Mr. Kurtenbach and for our entire school district,” Cherniss said. “There is tremendous value in promoting deserving individuals from within a school organization. Mr. Kurtenbach has served SMUSD honorably and with distinction over the past five years as principal of HMS. He is the perfect candidate for moving into this critically important role in guiding the instructional programs for SMUSD.”
Kurtenbach said he felt confident in SMUSD’s ability to identify the best candidate for this job.
“I think that has a lot to do with the rigorous hiring process and the fact that we get so many people to buy in during the process,” he said. “I don’t think we make too many missteps when hiring. I think we do an excellent job.”
On the pending change of scenery, Kurtenbach won’t have to travel too far: The district office and HMS share a contiguous parking lot. That, he said, will make it easier to revisit why he does his job to begin with — the students.
“If you’re having a bad day, you can just go to a classroom. They’re kids. It just makes you feel better,” he said. “I’m going to still be spending a lot of time in the classroom. I am not going to be stuck in my office, because I’d go stir crazy.”

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