COARSEGOLD — “My number one core value is that we be here for our students,” says Dr. Stephanie Osowski, the new principal at Yosemite High School. “I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. My job initially will be to listen to what everybody is telling me. I want to hear their concerns — and their celebrations.”
Dr. Osowski was in the area this week attending meetings prior to formally starting full-time with the district in July. The SoCal educator — and one-time journalist — is moving here from Fallbrook to replace Regina Carr.
At his Town Hall meeting Thursday night in Coarsegold, Supervisor Tom Wheeler introduced Osowski and warmly welcomed her to the community. When the supervisor struggled to pronounce her last name, Osowski said, “Just call me Dr. O. That’s what all the kids call me.”
Dr. O is currently rocking two purple streaks in her otherwise blonde hair. “The students love it,” she says. “It’s a great ice breaker and conversation starter. It makes them think I’m cool.”
An area principal at Fallbrook High since 2015, Osowski, who is 52, taught English and special education for ten years before becoming an administrator. Before that, she worked for 12 years as a reporter and editor in the Los Angeles area, for publications including Entrepreneur magazine and the Simi Valley Enterprise.
Her Bachelor’s degree was in English and journalism. “I learned more in six months as a reporter than in all four years of college,” she says.
Osowski decided to pivot from the newsroom to the classroom after the tragic death of her closest cousin, Mark Osowski, who had been a successful coach in the NBA.
“He was six years older but like a brother to me,” she says. “When he died, he was just 41. I was at his funeral when I realized I had to make a change. Six months later, I quit my job and went back to school.
“Actually, I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was six years old. I wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to live in a pink house,” says Osowski, who holds a Master’s in Special Education from CSU San Marcos and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from USC’s Rossier School of Education. Her post-grad research centered upon inclusion practices, school culture and bullying prevention.
The pink house part of her dream has yet to materialize — “but you never know,” she jokes. Osowski has a 20-year-old son and two step-daughters also in their twenties. Her husband Mark Jones works for the Veteran’s Administration.
Dr. O says her educational philosophy can be summed up in just a few words: “prepare kids not just for college or a career — but for life.” She describes her leadership style as “very hands on.”
“I’m at that point in my career,” she says, “where I feel well prepared and ready to lead my own school.”
Yosemite Unified School District Superintendent Glen Billington thinks Dr. O will be a “terrific” new leader for YHS’s 40 faculty members and 700 students.
“Stephanie’s going to make a big impact on the community,” Billington says. “She’s got a ton of energy and is a good listener. And she’s open to both people and ideas. Student achievement is high on her list and most importantly, she has a real heart for kids.”
Osowski said this week that she sees her job as “bringing everybody together so that we’re all working on the same page. It’s not my style to say, ‘here’s what’s wrong and here’s how we’re going to fix it.’
“I like to get out there and mix it up, talk to the kids in the halls, in classrooms, at lunch. I’m not a ‘hide-in-my-office’ principal. If I’m not out and about, how do I know what’s going on around my campus?”
Her old home was less than an hour from the ocean. In her new position, she’ll be less than an hour from Yosemite National Park — “one of my favorite places on the planet.”
“When I saw the posting for the principal position at Yosemite High, I just had to apply,” Osowski says. “I kind of did it on a whim. But I got a better and better vibe as I moved through the interview process. The position turned out to be a great fit for me — and with my core values.”
Being an administrator is very different from being a teacher, Osowski says.
“As a teacher, there’s a finite amount of things in your control. As an administrator, there’s an infinite number of things out of your control.”
As busy as she is, Osowski still finds the time to teach on-line classes in USC’s teacher credentialing program.
The daughter of a successful insurance executive, she was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. An athlete in high school, Osowski is still an avid runner and has raced in two half marathons. She’s also competed in triathlons.
But this summer she’s limping a bit after surgery on her ankle to repair a torn ligament.
“I just can’t wait to get back in shape,” she says. “I am so looking forward to hiking in Yosemite.”