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The Centaurian

Dr. Thomas Reflects on Her First Year as Principal

Bertrand Edwards

As her first year at Culver City High School comes to a close, principal Dr. Adrienne Thomas has had her fair share of memorable experiences, but perhaps none more unusual than the amount of fire alarms she’s seen this year.

“The funniest moment [this school year] and this is going to sound silly is the fire alarms,” Thomas said with a laugh. “It’s unusual. I’ve never run into this many before. But the fact that we were in it together, I saw students’ heart [and] I saw students’ concern for each other.”

For the St. Louis native, it’s just another day’s work in her first year as principal of CCHS. While these accidental alarms — caused by everything from burnt microwave popcorn to mechanical issues in the weight room — have induced frustration among students and administrators alike, Thomas says the response to these events have reminded her of the growing school community she’s strived to foster since her first day on the job.

It’s a job that Thomas knew wouldn’t be easy as she researched the position in the 2023 spring semester amid heated debates in board meetings and protests involving Culver City parents about issues of school safety and security at the middle and high school campuses. While school violence was the subject of much of the talk last year among students and parents, Thomas was determined to “change the narrative” and rework the negative mindset students had of their school.

“I don’t have any qualms about taking on a challenge because I didn’t like what I heard,” Thomas said. “I’m not Superwoman or anything, but I wanted to come and build community and say, how can we change this narrative that’s being spewed about us?”

Thus, resulted in the creation of the “Centaur Collective,” a term Thomas coined to call the community of students, parents, and teachers that make CCHS. To get students and teachers to embrace this new narrative of school pride and creating a community, Thomas manifested her goals through a slogan that she’s made no short of an effort to emphasize in the weekly newsletters and announcements — “Give Culver a hug; we keep it safe, we keep it clean, we keep it respectful.”

While Thomas acknowledges there is still room for improvement to live up to the slogan, she said she’s seen improved efforts toward building community through seeing communication between students, teachers, and administrators regarding personal concerns — including issues of safety — and has personally improved relationships with students and teachers throughout the year.

“I think a success has been that I’ve shown that a principal supports students and staff,” Thomas said. “Kids actually come up to me and say how they feel or ask me questions. They know who the principal is, which sounds silly, but sometimes you can sit in the office and never go out and endear yourself to students or talk to parents or show up to certain events.”

For Thomas, her school-wide presence is part of her effort to create more of an outlet for student and parent voices, which has been a subject of controversy all year among students, particularly after the Jan. 10 safety assembly. The assembly was led by members of the Culver City Police Department on stage as they provided information about school lockdown procedures in the case of emergency events. While Thomas said she received positive feedback from some students about the assembly, others expressed their discomfort with the sensitive subject matter and wished there was more student involvement on assembly topics in the future.

Thomas said the feedback she received resonated with her and acknowledges the need for heightened student voice, which she plans to engage next year with more surveys and a safety committee to hear students’ opinions. However, she also hopes students recognize the importance of such safety assemblies that provide the essential guidelines to follow in the off chance of an emergency, with the hope of never having to recall them.

“I never thought that police would make people feel that unsafe; that was deep for me,” Thomas said. “I don’t think police are anything to fear. … Everybody’s never going to always agree, so that’s the most difficult part.”

Despite the controversy of the assembly, Thomas said it’s one she’s willing to swallow.

“I have to take that hit when it comes,” Thomas said. “I’d rather take the hit than you not know.”

While Thomas reflects back on the successes and challenges of this year, she’s also looking forward to her plans next year including building a “culture of care” through PBIS, which is a district-wide support system to improve learning environments through positive behavior strategies. Part of her plan entails providing more targeted behavioral interventions and opportunities for students to get help for anything they need and constructing more positive school signage that drive home her three pillars of keeping the school safe, clean and respectful.

Additionally, she intends to work toward fulfilling the recommendations provided by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) — an organization providing accreditation to west coast educational institutions — after they granted a six-year accreditation last school year with a three-year revisit. Thomas says she wants to focus on supporting teachers and improving learning practices next year based on the WASC document recommendations, one of which called for increased student engagement and critical thinking practices in classrooms.

Ultimately, Thomas hopes to build on the lessons she’s learned this year, in her broader goal to build student and teacher relationships and foster a stronger Culver City High School community. And her final message to students?

“It takes them to tell us. We don’t know everything, we want to do a good job,” Thomas said. “So if we put out a survey, respond to it. If we say today we’re going to do this, pitch in. It’s us just making a little small effort to be each day better than we were yesterday.”

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About the Contributors
Jonathan Kim
Jonathan Kim, Co-President & Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hi, I'm Jonathan, a senior at CCHS and the Co-President and Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Centaurian. As a student journalist, I hope to inform the community of students' unique stories and local events and issues in an accurate manner. Other than journalism, I'm passionate about the environment and when I'm not writing articles, you'll likely find me hiking, running, or following the latest Dodgers game.
Bertrand Edwards
Bertrand Edwards, Staff Photographer
Hi, I'm Bert and this is my senior year at CCHS. This is my first year as a photographer for The Centaurian. Outside of the Journalism club, I write for the Culver Chronicle and take photos for the yearbook. My interests include photography, as well as history, astrophysics, antiquing and baking.

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