John Briquelet and team dressed as Star Wars chara
John Briquelet, ACSA’s Secondary Principal of the Year, (aka Obi Wan Kenobi) has challenged a culture of complacency by finding ways to better support underserved student groups.
Briquelet challenges the status quo
August 23, 2021
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ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: John Briquelet Award: Secondary Principal of the Year Title: Principal, Gretchen Whitney High School, ABC USD ACSA highlights: member since 2006; Secondary Education Council president, Region 17 (2014-2016)
John Briquelet isn’t the kind of person who dusts off his hands and rests on his laurels. As principal of Gretchen Whitney High School since 2016, Briquelet has led the campus to such honors as being named one of the top three best high schools in California by U.S. News and World Report, a California Distinguished School and a Gold Ribbon School.
To Briquelet, this is just a place to start.
“Some may think, ‘If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.’ This is not John’s philosophy,” wrote Larry Natividad, assistant principal of Whitney High School. “In fact, he doesn’t care about rankings. His guiding principle is to ‘fight and protect every student.’ He has challenged a culture of complacency … to actually coach staff, with the union partnership, to better support students to feel included, especially our Latinx and Black students.”
Briquelet’s commitment to equitable opportunities for every student leads him to continually challenge the status quo, prioritizing unbiased educational practices and curriculum and professional development for teachers and staff, as well as facilitating a committee with the school’s Black Alumni Association and the California Conference for Equality and Justice that provides input and feedback, improving access to classes and programs. His resolute leadership of a diverse student population, including many underserved student groups, has resulted in a graduation rate that has remained above 99 percent.
In his more than three decades as an educator, beginning as a Language Arts and English teacher and continuing through principalships at three different schools, Briquelet has shown his dedication to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed.
“I can’t think of a more deserving person than John Briquelet for being honored as a Secondary Principal … of the Year,” ABC USD Superintendent Mary Sieu wrote. “He is an outstanding person with grace, flexibility, commitment and passion for the students he serves.”
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? My favorite book on leadership is “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.
My favorite quote on leadership is “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? “Be curious, not furious.”
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? I wish I had better balance in this regard, but my family has always supported me, regardless of the crazy hours and stress that sometimes come with the job. A little time in the Jacuzzi doesn’t hurt.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? This is not a life hack so much as something people genuinely appreciate. Respond to your emails within four hours or less if at all possible. If nothing else, let the person who contacted you know that you have received their message and that you will be following up.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am actually a bit of an introvert and more than a little nerdy.
What made you want to become a school administrator? When I was growing up, I had a handful of amazing teachers who refused to give up on me: Mrs. Callahan (grade 3), Mr. Geiger (grade 5), Mr. Lupien (grade 6), Mrs. Hollar (grade 9), Mr. Boodman (grade 10), and Mr. Oseid (grade 12). I became a teacher because I wanted to do for kids what they had done for me — it can make all the difference. I wanted to become an administrator because doing so would permit me to help on a much larger scale.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? Self-doubt. Much of my life has been spent proving to myself that I can. Fortunately, I am also pretty stubborn and greatly dislike failure.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? I am tremendously proud of my family and the fact they still put up with me. Professionally, I am most proud of my 32 years as a California educator and my efforts on behalf of students and staff. Being named ACSA’s Secondary Administrator of the Year is one heck of an honor, but I think I am still more stunned than proud.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position?
ACSA has provided me with wonderful opportunities to network with other administrators and learn from them. California has some incredible educational leaders, and they make me proud to be part of the profession.
What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you? I am reminded every day of the commitment and excellence of our teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff. I am also encouraged by our ability to adapt and overcome, even under difficult circumstances.
John Briquelet leadership has resulted in numerous awards for Whitney High School and graduation rate above 99 percent.
John Briquelet, ACSA’s Secondary Principal of the Year, has challenged a culture of complacency by finding ways to better support underserved student groups.
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