Tom Jacoubowsky named principal of Juana Briones Elementary in Palo Alto

District continues to shuffle, fill site-leadership positions

Tom Jacoubowsky, former longtime assistant principal at Gunn High School and interim principal of Jordan Middle School this past school year, will be moving to a permanent position this fall as principal of Juana Briones Elementary School, the district announced Tuesday.

Jacoubowsky is the latest announcement in a series of leadership changes at Palo Alto Unified's elementary and middle schools. He is replacing Lisa Hickey, who will start this fall as Jane Lathrop Stanford (JLS) Middle School's new principal.

Hickey is taking over for Sharon Ofek, who was recently named the district's new chief academic officer of secondary education. The current secondary-education head, former Terman Middle School principal Katherine Baker, is retiring at the end of the year.

Jacoubowsky moved to Jordan in the fall of 2015 after a 14-year career at Gunn. There, he had worked as teacher, athletic director, dean of students and assistant principal.

In the district's announcement of his new appointment, Jacoubowsky noted that his son attended Juana Briones and the community is one he knows well.

"While I've dedicated most of my career in education at the secondary level, I'm passionate about reading comprehension and I'm a strong advocate for developing all students to be strong readers," he stated. "I'm excited that I will be able to see that passion come to fruition supporting Briones teachers as we all work together to ensure Briones students continue to grow as strong readers."

Superintendent Max McGee said in the announcement that in Jacoubowsky, the district found what it needed to fill Hickey's position: "an internal candidate who had a relationship with Briones parents and neighbors."

"This is a remarkable fit and I look forward to the good work Tom will do at Briones similarly to his work at Jordan and Gunn," McGee said.

Jacoubowsky's appointment is effective July 1.

Jacoubowsky began his career in 1995 as a student-teacher at Sequoia Union High School. He transferred the next year to Menlo-Atherton High School, where he taught and coached track and field for five years. He moved to Gunn in 2001 to serve as the school's new athletic director and dean of students. He became assistant principal in 2006.

He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, and a master's degree in public administration from Notre Dame de Namur University.

Jacoubowsky was transferred to Jordan this year on a temporary basis; the position has been filled permanently by Katie Kinnaman, principal of Gardner Bullis School in Los Altos and a former Palo Alto Unified teacher.

In April, the district also named a new permanent principal for Palo Verde Elementary School: Hillary Miller, currently assistant principal at JLS.


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7 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 31, 2016 at 1:20 pm

[Post removed.]

28 people like this
Posted by Greg Simons
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 31, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Congratulations to Tom Jacoubowsky, and well done PAUSD.

Tom is well liked and respected by a broad array of kids at Gunn, and their parents. I speak with firsthand knowledge and have many accounts from Gunn students and their parents. He made a difference there, under very difficult circumstances, and will make a difference at Briones.


25 people like this
Posted by Mom of Students
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Seriously, Mr.Jacoubowsy does care about students, always going above and beyond. He made a huge impact with the counseling department at Gunn, providing communication that did not previously exist, as well as being an Administrator who listened to students and showed students that an Administrator can care. No secret agenda. Gunn students will forever miss him, as the school has not been the same without him.

Wishing Mr. Jacoubowsky the best!

28 people like this
Posted by AJ
a resident of Green Acres
on May 31, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Congratulations, Tom

Tom is very good with people, understands the Briones community, and cares a lot about doing what it take for every child. I think volunteerism was higher in our days at Briones, and Tom's energy and enthusiasm will do a lot for community building. All the best, Tom.

18 people like this
Posted by TM
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Congratulations Tom and good luck at Briones! The community is excited and lucky to have you! Tom was an extremely dedicated administrator at Gunn who worked tirelessly to help students. He is missed beyond words at Gunn as nobody has stepped up to help students and families they way Tom did.

16 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 6:08 pm

I can't believe they didn't place Tom at Terman. His middle school experience would have been helpful to a school that is struggling with leadership like Terman is. [Portion removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by I'm with parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 6:19 pm

I'm with parent...Why hasn't the district done anything about the situation at Terman? They have been struggling for the last few years and have not received support from the district. It's time for a change there.

17 people like this
Posted by Dance of the lemons
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 31, 2016 at 6:44 pm

I like Tom J. but it is unusual for an administrator to be an assistant principal for so long, just to then be placed in interim positions, to finally being appointed principal of Briones. Tom is a great guy, gets along with kids, and doesn't do much to upset the teachers, but this is no leader, least not in the sense of a dynamic leader who can really move a school forward. On the other hand, neither was Lisa Hickey. She held the principal's seat well for four years, didn't upset the teacher's union more than normal, and now she gets a new start at the middle school. One more thing: he might have been appointed to just bypass the teacher's union. It might even be part of the raise agreement, informally.

5 people like this
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

@Dance of the Lemons: Not sure what your vision of "moving the school forward" is. Both Tom and Lisa have personal skills and competence in spades. Honesty and ethics are vitally important and Lisa has always acted in that fashion. One of the signs of a competent administrator is actually NOT upsetting the staff. The idea is to solve problems together. Let's give Tom J. a chance - he's got a lot to learn, but he seems like a bright person. FWIW, 25 Churchill jealously guards their prerogatives with regard to admin hiring - there's no evidence of a PAEA "conspiracy". I'm trying to imagine a scenario where PAEA says "give us the raise AND we want Hickey at JLS AND Tom J. at Briones - or the deal's off.". Awfully implausible.

Like this comment
Posted by Please more
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2016 at 11:24 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Isabelle
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 1, 2016 at 1:46 am

Tom didn't give a hoot at Jordan. Maybe because he was only an interim principal? He is a nice guy but a terrible administrator. Good thing he has only an elementary to supervise.

10 people like this
Posted by Community Member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

I am also curious why Tom J. wasn't placed at JLS or Terman. His professional experience at the secondary level would align much better with the demanding needs of middle school students, teachers, and parents. And I agree about Terman. The school has suffered for years under an ineffective and substandard leadership team. Since the district seems to be making several changes in administration, the untenable situation at Terman should also be addressed.

6 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2016 at 9:10 am

Mr. J was one of the very few admins who spoke the truth to parents and students at Gunn. He truly cares about students. I still value all his feedback and advice. Wishing him the best of luck at his new position.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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