Cabrillo School gets midyear principal change

Barry Yates, principal of Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

A familiar face returns to the campus where a generation of Malibu Park parents had him for the 5th grade.

By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times

The principal made him leave, but now he’s back.

That’s the oversimplified explanation for Barry Yates’ return to Juan Cabrillo Elementary School as principal. Yates had taught at the school from 1970 until 1999, when principal Patricia Cairns told him that he needed to leave if he wanted to grow professionally.

“She was my biggest supporter, and she said I had to go into town to get some real world experience,” Yates recounted. “I did, and now I’m back here in her office.”

Hundreds of West Malibu children had Yates for fifth grade, and the new Cabrillo principal says he’s astounded by how many parents of current fifth graders were in his classes.

Yates was selected as a midyear replacement at a school that has seen atypical unrest during the last year and a half, an unrest that ended with a faculty vote of no confidence in new principal John W. Davis.

John Deasy, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent, reassigned Davis to a district headquarters job last month, and transferred Yates to Cabrillo from Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, where he had been assistant principal for seven years.

District officials and parents say Davis was not a good fit at Juan Cabrillo, and had alienated the teachers. Some parents complained that Davis was not implementing programs that the large cadre of volunteer parents had been working on for many years.

“Mr. Yates’ goal is just to get the school feeling like it used to be, a real positive team,” said PTA co-president Joanna McPartlin, adding, “I had wonderful experiences with Mr. Davis, and any of the discord that might have existed certainly didn’t filter down into the classroom.”

The other PTA co-president, Nadeane Rudd, said Yates’ appointment “has brought us a whole freshness. I guess Mr. Davis was just a bad fit.”

Yates said teaching at Cabrillo, and being a principal at Franklin, which educates primarily wealthy children from the Montana Avenue section of Santa Monica, has prepared him for the sometimes “intense” pressures at the school.

Yates said making people feel good – students, parents, teachers alike – is his first role.

“We are blessed with a fabulous staff here at Juan Cabrillo, and it appears they didn’t get all the support that they needed,” he said.

“The seven years I spent in town gave me a background on how the district works, how large schools work and valued experience,” he said. “But at heart, I’m a teacher.”

Small priorities, such as a campuswide recycling program, are on his radar for the short term, Yates said.

“It would be an insult to the parents and teachers for me to come in and say I have a big plan.

“My job right now is just to listen, and to learn.”