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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
2021 Continuation/Ed Options Administrator of the
Erick Fineberg’s students say he is a principal you “don’t forget” who gets to know each student personally.
Fineberg makes a difference for students
June 28, 2021
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Erick Fineberg Award: Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year Title: Principal, Tustin Connect, Tustin USD ACSA highlights: member since 2002; President, Tustin School Management Association, 2013- 2015; charter board member, 2010-present.
While Erick Fineberg’s tenure as principal of Tustin Connect, a K-12 continuation school in Tustin USD, hasn’t been long, he’s already made a definitive mark. Fineberg, who began serving the students and communities of Tustin USD in 2010 as an elementary and middle school principal, hit the ground running in his challenging new position, immediately spearheading new programs to help students thrive.
Working with the Tustin Public Schools Foundation, he led the effort to fund a Summer Academy that brought robotics and CTE classes to Tustin USD students, offering more than $30,000 in scholarships districtwide. Tustin Connect has more than doubled in size during his leadership, and quickly pivoted at the start of the pandemic from a blended learning school to a fully virtual framework, Tustin Connect Interim.
Fineberg’s commitment to helping every student, in every grade, in every school, succeed is truly an example of exceptional, cooperative and courageous leadership. For proof, just look at a few of the testimonials ACSA received on his behalf.
Gregory Franklin, superintendent of Tustin USD, wrote, “Erick has done an outstanding job of managing the dramatic growth of the Tustin Connect K-12 school due to the pandemic! He’s the right person in the right position at the right time to maintain a great program for students.”
“Erick brings an optimistic and student-centered approach to the wide span of diverse programs that he leads in Tustin Unified,” wrote Sharon Maede, a teacher at Tustin Connect. “Through drive, commitment, and a passion to help others, he continues to positively impact the lives of countless students, families and staff on a daily basis.”
Chris Matos, assistant superintendent of Educational Services at Tustin USD, stated, “Erick works tirelessly to meet the needs of all students and is most invested in whatever it takes to support the learning of his students and staff.”
Jose Jimenez Mota, a former student, wrote, “Mr. Fineberg is someone you don’t forget after meeting for the first time. He befriends everyone he meets and gets to know them personally. The learning environments that he creates are unique in that he promotes the use of technology to accommodate every student’s needs.”
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? My favorite book is “Drive” by Daniel Pink. It just really hit a chord with me about motivation and what drives us to succeed and draws our attention and priority. Especially in today’s world, understand what can move the needle for students and motivates them is critical.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Believe the best in people. It feels far better going through life assuming best of intentions. You may be disappointed from time to time, but you’ll be far more understanding and patient with others.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? What I try to do is get the work done during the week and really give the weekends to my family.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Find a mentor you connect with and lean on that relationship. Ask questions. No one expects you to know it all and it can save you countless hours trying to reinvent the wheel. Avoid making decisions too quickly. There are many pitfalls that can be avoided if you reach out. Odds are a colleague has had a similar experience or at minimum can just talk you through it. The principalship can be an island if you let it be one.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I have traveled to every MLB stadium at least once.
What made you want to become a school administrator? It sounds super corny, but it really was to make a positive impact in people’s lives. I originally wanted to be a psychologist but realized early on that the impact I could make as an administrator was much more far reaching.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? Patience. I struggle with waiting for change to happen and wanting it to happen yesterday. I’ve learned through the years to lay the foundation for change, let it grow and develop, and watch it blossom into sustainable change. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding.
What is your proudest accomplishment? I’ve had a great ride so far. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I feel like at each stop along the way, I’ve had one big accomplishment, from the first to 900 API in my district as a new admin to pulling a school out of PI in two years, to the stories you hear of former students’ successes. It all feels great. In the end, this honor has been quite special and I appreciate ACSA for the work they do and the opportunity to be recognized.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? The consistent messaging and information has been great. I feel like whether it’s advocacy, workshops, or the latest legislative news, ACSA does a terrific job of curating the most important information and providing it in an easy-to-digest, convenient and comprehensive manner.
What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you/how has it inspired you as an educator? How important and invaluable the time together is. The isolation has had a profound impact on us all and I look forward to the day when we can see each other’s faces, shake each other’s hands, and celebrate our successes and work through our struggles together! Despite the struggles, seeing the resilience and perseverance in our young people and colleagues has been inspirational. This time has really forced me to slow down and appreciate the little things.
2021 Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year Erick Fineberg.
2021 Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year Erick Fineberg.
2021 Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year Erick Fineberg.
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