Passing the Torch. Your Dream Job as School Principal Awaits

February 25, 2020

A letter from Donna Drago
Principal at Napa Junction Magnet School

Donna Drago, Principal at Napa Junction Magnet School

I have one more big job to complete before I retire. Attracting the next principal for Napa Junction Magnet School.  Napa Junction is located in American Canyon, California, and is part of the Napa Valley Unified School District. It is a TK-5 Title 1 school.  But the most important characteristic to know about this remarkable school is that our learners and their fabulous teachers have created a school where scholars consistently defy predictions of zip code, race and socio economics.  We do this joyously and collaboratively, united in our quest to get better and better at meeting the needs of each student. Perhaps you can tell by my words that this school has my heart, and it needs its next leader to come bearing his or hers.

Napa Junction has been a Demonstration Site for the New Tech Network for many years.  We are one of their first elementary schools and have partnered with NTN to define a model for elementary schools.  We are currently applying for status as a New Tech Network Spotlight School and expect to earn this title in the Spring.  We have also earned the Magnet Schools of America Merit Award for the fifth time this year. The Magnet Schools of America award is based solely on test scores that evidence the closing of the Achievement Gap.  We are honored to have our hard work and excellent results recognized.

School teams from all over the United States and Australia visit Napa Junction on a regular basis.  The first thing every visitor comments on is how our school feels. Our students tell our story best.  The classrooms are filled with students who can tell you exactly what their current learning targets are, their progress toward learning them and what they are able to do if they are feeling stuck.  A growth mindset is the norm. We have spent the last couple of years delving into Ron Berger’s Leaders of Their Own Learning to improve our practices.  Beginning on Day 1 of kindergarten, our students begin learning about collaboration.  We know the value of strong relationships and believe that when we teach students how to work together, we are creating a learning space that only enriches learning.  A recent guest on campus was speaking with one of our younger students and was questioning her about how difficult it might be to work with peers. The little one quickly rebutted the suggestion and stated, “Team work is dream work!”  Our teachers recognize that student culture is first and foremost if they are to create a rich learning environment that is safe and supportive. As teachers develop their lesson plans and design PBL units, they are always mindful of not only how they will teach academic content but how they will support the development of the students’ social and emotional skills.  

Recognizing that student culture will never surpass adult culture, our staff persists in developing their own growth mindset, building relationships with peers, and constantly pushing ourselves to become stronger instructional leaders.  The Napa Junction staff is a strong team. The new principal will step into a school program that is well defined in an improvement oriented environment. Students are released early every Wednesday afternoon. We take advantage of this opportunity for grade level planning time and professional learning.  Every teacher has been cultivated to be a leader. Teachers take turns stepping into leadership roles, planning professional learning, facilitating workshops and keeping an eye on the pulse of the school. There is no shortage of critical thinkers and problem solvers on this team. If you take on the role of Principal, these teachers will not be lining up at your door asking you to buy things for their classrooms.  They will constantly harass you for more subs so they can have collaboration time with their team. Grade level planning time is the most valuable budget item for this clan. I have often felt that sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of their way. Can you imagine working for such a smart and dynamic staff?

Our PBL units are firmly grounded in standards.  We are a STEM magnet school so most of our units begin with the Next Gen Science Standards.  A whole lot of ELA is woven into each integrated unit. We are a wall to wall PBL school. This speaks to our belief that our Title 1 students need instruction that engages them, connects them, and challenges them.  Our population has responded well to this style of instructional delivery. A goal is to continue to develop more units so there are more for teachers to choose from each year. We are constantly looking for ways to embed more math into the units.  Maybe that is a level of expertise you could bring to the job? In addition, we want to improve the authenticity of our assessments.

So, if you are someone passionate about student learning, forward thinking but well grounded, have a desire to lead – not rule, will embrace working with a strong team and have a plethora of ideas that will only enhance our work, please apply!  We want someone like you to move Napa Junction to the next level. Did I mention you would also help open our brand new school? That’s right! It is being built as you read this and will most likely be ready January 2021. It is a beautiful space with the American Canyon Wetlands in our front yard.  You have to bring energy to this job because you are going to need it!

Help me spread the word. Leading this school is like winning the lottery, and we’ve only just begun. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.  Email me at  


Donna Drago

Learn more about the principal position at Napa Junction Magnet School.