Castaic High selects school leaders

Future Castaic High School Assistant Principal Sarah Delawder, center, and Principal Melanie Hagman look out of one of the of the classroom windows of the 400A building as construction continues at Castaic High School in Castaic on Wednesday, December 19, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita Valley’s newest high school has announced the eight educators who will comprise the school’s leadership team when it opens to students later on this year.

When Castaic High School opens in the fall of 2019, the school will already have nearly 10 members of its leadership team in place, according to the William S. Hart District’s Castaic High School blog.

Sarah Avanessian will join the leadership team as the English department chair. Avanessian taught all levels of English at William S. Hart High School since 2002.

Throughout her career, Avanessian has worked with many different student populations, including some who would be the first in their families to go to college, Hart District officials said. Currently, she teaches Advanced Placement Language and Composition and newcomer English learners.

Lori Hermelin will join the leadership team as a teacher librarian, according to the blog. She brings more than 20 years of experience to the position, and she will be tasked with creating a library that will encourage a diverse school population to explore, discover, invent and share.

Hermelin will be expected to work with colleagues to establish programs that develop ethical research skills, enhance digital citizenship, increase literacy skills and nurture a culture of readers. She looks forward to growing a program from scratch at Castaic High School, according to district officials.

As a lifelong resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and a current resident of Castaic, Heather Kennedy said she looks forward to joining the leadership team as the special education department chair.

Kennedy has served as a department chair and intervention coordinator at West Ranch High School and was selected as the West Ranch’s Teacher of the Year in the 2014-15 academic year, the school website states.

Having recently assisted students of various grade levels, including those who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, the Castaic High leadership team hopes Kennedy will bring a multitude of programs that were as impactful as the Yes I Can peer-mentoring program that she helped establish, which aimed to help students develop interpersonal relationships that they could carry beyond their high school years.

Castaic High School Principal Melanie Hagman has previously discussed a desire for the school to focus on the “whole child,” and to offer programs and counseling opportunities that will accelerate student growth in areas beyond academics.

Counselor Jibri Hodge will attempt to do just that by bringing more than 13 years of counseling experience to the Coyote’s campus. As a collegiate, he participated in football at Pierce College and the University of Oregon. Hodge has also coached football and track and field during his 13 years in the Hart District.

Dominic Marcucilli will be responsible for oversight of the school’s associated student body once he assumes the position of ASB director for the still-under-construction high school.

Marcucilli is expected to work alongside Hagman, Assistant Principal Sarah Delawder and the rest of the leadership team, according to the Castaic High blog. Marcucilli was honored as Hart High School’s Teacher of the Year in 2014-15 and has received many other awards from local representatives and foundations. He currently teaches English as a special education teacher at Hart High School.

Having worked as a French and Spanish teacher for 16 years in the Hart District, Vanessa Perez will head the department for world languages at Castaic High School, according to

Perez said she is dedicated to making language-learning much more than just memorizing words or grammatical structures.

Like Perez, Charles Deuschle hopes to use his passion to benefit the students of Castaic High School when it open in 2019.

Deuschle said he is thrilled to be joining the CHS leadership team as the practical arts department chair and video production instructor, according to the blog. In his 17 years with the Hart District, Deuschle has diversified himself in the areas of English, theatre, production and broadcast journalism.

When Golden Valley High School opened in 2005, he was selected to create the video production program from the ground up and over the past 15 years, he has continued to grow and refine the video curriculum, officials said.

The final position on the leadership team will be held by Joe Brusca, who currently teaches fine art and ceramics at Hart High School. Brusca will serve as Castaic’s director of fine arts.

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