Carrie Pentis, Moorpark High School’s newly appointed principal, knows the value of education. As a young divorced mother with an associate degree and two sons to support, she was faced with some challenging circumstances. Fortunately for Carrie, she found her niche.
“I knew if I could find a position where I could work when my kids were in school, it would be good,” said Carrie.
That position happened to be at Peach Hill Elementary School 17 years ago, where she was hired as an instructional aid for a special education class. The pay was low, the work difficult, but Carrie admitted it was a great career choice.
“It just ignited something in me,” she said, “so I started out at ground level and worked my way through the education process.”
Carrie had two things in her favor: a lot of energy and a very positive outlook. Both served her well as she returned to night school at California Lutheran University and studied for her bachelor’s degree. She eventually graduated from CLU in 2002 with a degree in business management.
In the meantime, she also became certified as an EMT and worked at Peach Hill as a health technician.
Then in 1999, she was hired at Moorpark High School as a grant liaison. As part of the grant, she was responsible for bringing in the school’s first school resource officer and interacting with some very difficult students. The result? She loved it.
“I liked having conversations with these students, I liked trying to help them,” she said.
Prentis decided once again to upgrade her education. First she went to at the University of Laverne, where she picked up both her master's in educational counseling and her pupil personnel services credential in 2004. Then she went on to National University, where she finished her tier 1 administrative credential in 2007.
Her additional worked paid off. She became Moorpark High’s dean of students in 2004 and assistant principal in 2007. Last spring she learned that she had been hired for her dream job—principal of Moorpark High School.
Prentis understands the challenge of keeping a public high school running.
“The State is asking us to do business as usual with decreased funding,” she said.
This means that despite the loss of funds, California still requires testing standards for such things as math, reading, physical education and language proficiency. Meanwhile, programs that used to be electives are now disappearing—options for foreign languages, physical education, technology and fine arts.
And something else was lost, something dear to her heart: academic intervention.
“We lost a position crucial to intervention,” she said. “Project Pride, which allowed credentialed teachers to provide extra tutoring after school.”
As principal, Carrie remains determined to provide additional academic assistance.
“I’ve asked for a lunch time person to come in and open up the computer lab,” she said. “They’ll be helping students with their homework.”
What’s more, as an alternative to Project Pride, she has launched a new tutoring program.
“I’ve started a mentoring program with other students assigned by the subjects they are passionate about,” she said.
Pentis knows it takes hard work to succeed, but she encourages her students to stay focused.
“I tell students that education offers opportunity,” she said. “And when I tell a student that it offers opportunity, I’ve lived it. I tell them that I want you to dream and then take your steps to achieve it.”
Now that Carrie has become principal, her biggest challenge, as she sees it, might not be an expected one.
“I tend to be something of a control freak,” she said, “Now I have to let go and relinquish things to my very capable assistant principal and my great staff.”
She's very clear, as well, about what she is most looking forward to as principal.
“The students,” she said. “The class of 2015 as my first senior class, and for other students that I’ve worked with to see me as a leader.”
Being principal at MHS is an opportunity, something that Pentis has worked very hard to achieve. And now that Carrie has risen to the top, she’s most excited that her journey has happened here in her hometown.
“I landed at Moorpark High School,” she said. “What’s better than that?”