PMP394: Lessons from a First Year Principal with Tomas Macaluso

In this episode, we explore the remarkable journey of Tomas, principal of North Valleys High School in Reno, Nevada. Beginning his career as a CTE teacher, Tomas spent a decade before transitioning into administration. His path is one of dedication and innovation, marked by achievements like establishing a signature academy and leading as the Past President of NACTE. Discover how Tomas's four pillars - self-care, high expectations, student connection, and personal growth - shape the culture at North Valleys. Join us as we uncover his leadership philosophy, centered on creating a school environment reminiscent of Disneyland, where every student feels valued and eager to learn.

In this week’s episode, William D. Parker interviews Tomas Macaluso, a dynamic first-year principal who began his journey in Career and Technical Education (CTE), where he served for 10 years as a CTE teacher. In this role, Tomas taught business, graphic design, and IT. His major contribution was helping establish a signature academy, available to students county-wide. Transitioning into administration, Tomas served as a Dean of Students for a year, honing his leadership skills. He then progressed to an Assistant Principal position, a role he held for seven years. Notably, four of these years were at his current school, North Valleys High School, in Reno, Nevada, where he now proudly serves as the principal. He is the Past President of NACTE (Nevada Association of Career and Technical Education). His diverse experience in various educational roles underpins his commitment to student success and educational excellence.

An avid fan of Disney, Tomas believes we must build the cultures we want. His office is full of memorabilia from his favorite animation movies. 

Tomas and his staff have adopted four pillars as the foundation for their school practice:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Set high expectations.
  • Connect students to school.
  • If you’re not growing, you’re not going anywhere.

With 2,400 students in the largest geographic area in the district, North Valleys High School represents students from diverse demographic experiences. One of Tomas’s main goals is to create a school where students want to be. This means applying lessons he learned as a teacher who helped students to be successful in all their classes, not just his class. As a principal, this includes being visible. “99% of my day is devoted to doing the ‘other duties as assigned’ part of my contract.”

As a former Assistant Principal, he learned that taking five minutes to solve a problem may provide someone with hours of productivity. Tomas finds his energy and joy in serving and helping other solve problems. This is possible because his admin team of four Assistant Principals know their roles and how to execute them well. “This allows me to be the chief culture officer,” he explains.

Principal matters provided Tomas perspective into what leaders do and why they do what they do. As a result, Tomas believes, “If I take care of my teachers, they take care of our students.

Tomas recommends the book Creating Magic by Lee Cockrell. He has used it many times to inspire other educators in their journeys. He also believes “Culture is King.” Finally, he advises aspiring leaders to know their closure. Tomas’s closure in any interview is to say, “I want school to be like Disneyland, where students want to be, and they can’t wait to be back.”

Connect with Tomas via his school website

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker