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Who's Who in Sonoma: Altimira's William Deeths

The middle school principal speaks out about education in 2011.

William Deeths took a circuitous route through the North Bay: After growing up in Marin County and graduating from Terra Linda High School he went UC Davis. His first paying job came as a substitute teacher at .

In 2000, Deeths was hired as History and Leadership teacher and Activities Director at Petaluma Junior High. There, he worked to increase the articulation between the elementary feeder schools and the junior high, and raised more than $250,000 for the schools’ Associated Student Body.

It was also at Petaluma Junior High that he met his wife, Tawnya, a science teacher.

Deeths moved into administration and in 2004 worked as Assistant Principal at Petaluma High School.  He soon realized that he missed working with middle school students, and in 2010 he came “full circle” and returned to Sonoma as Principal at Altimira Middle School.

Sonoma Patch: How long have you been with Altimira?

Will: I’m starting my second year as Altimira’s Principal.

SP: How has technology changed the way schools operate?

Will: Teachers take roll on their computers and use document cameras and LCD projectors to make class presentations. Parents can access an online grade book for their child and see a day-by-day report. Students are able to look at a teacher’s website for homework tips and lecture notes.

SP: We’re not talking chalk boards. . .

Will: Traditional student assignments like poster boards and dioramas are being exchanged for "Glogs," interactive multimedia posters and designing websites.

SP: What are the biggest challenges you face with middle school students in 2011?

Will:  Budget issues. Trying to maintain the services and provide the education that our students need and deserve is difficult.

SP: Do you start college prep at this stage of education?

Will: Besides our regular curriculum, we’ve introduced a career exploration component which allows students to look at jobs, and the education and training required to make that a career.

SP: What is the most important thing you can tell a middle school student when he or she enters Altimira?

Will: Take an active role in your school and your education.

SP: What is the most important thing you can tell them when they graduate from Altimira?

Will: As I told the promoting class last year in my speech at the ceremony,  “You have the ability to take your life in any direction. . . You are only limited by what you believe you can accomplish and how hard you are willing to work to achieve those dreams.”

SP: How much cultural diversity exists at Altimira?

Will: Roughly 60 percent of our population is Latino, 40 percent Caucasian. We have students from every country in North, Central and South America. We also have students from the Philippines and Cambodia.

SP: How do you address meeting the needs of all students?

Will: With less than 500 students, the staff is able to build relationships with each student and learn what works and what doesn’t work for him or her.

SP: If you weren’t in the education field, what would you be doing?

Will: I have wanted to be in education ever since I was in the 7th grade. I could not even begin to imagine not working in a school.

SP: What do you do when you’re not working?

Will: I spend time with my wife and 2½ year old son. I’m also an avid record collector. I can often be found in the evening and on weekends searching through thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets for vinyl record albums. At last count I had about 5000 LP’s and about 9000 45s. It is getting tad bit out of control, but it definitely helps me to relax.

Dee Baucher September 10, 2011 at 03:51 PM
This school, and the other middle school and the high school are failing our children. They refuse to diagnose (with appropriate testing and specialty trained learning specialists) the multitude of specific learning disabilities. In refusing this testing, the district has a long policy of pretending that the specific neuro-developmental disorders are just not present in the children. They believe they will not be held financially responsible to address the problems in the kids, as long as they deny the problems exist. So the testing is either never offered, or done so superficially as to avoid acknowledging the existence of the specific learning disorders that require special types of intervention. This saves the district money, but leaves too many kids with lifelong learning disorders that have never been addressed, and too many families without understanding of why their kids fail to achieve and ultimately develop severe lifelong emotional distress. Families blame themselves and, unfortunately, rarely find out the truth about why their individual children end up with a predestined path to lifelong pain. Many in the school district are very aware of this reality, but are not honest with the parents of kids who are deliberately being allowed to fail in this way. It needs to stop. The district needs to be held accountable.

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