ENCINITAS — After 26 years serving the Cardiff School, Principal Julie Parker announced a well-deserved retirement.
At Cardiff School, Parker has helped to build a culture of cooperation and communication that has led to great success for the school, and the Cardiff School District as a whole, including the ongoing renovations at the elementary school and numerous school programs.
“I’m just in a position where I’m just ready,” Parker told The Coast News. “I wanted to go out when I was feeling good and strong. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past 26 years here.”
A lover of surfing, mountain biking and golfing, Parker is very much looking forward to being able to enjoy those activities on school days rather than on the weekends.
Landing in San Diego County was almost a fluke for Parker. A native of Illinois, Parker’s heart was always in California and soon after graduation, she decided to head west with not much in the way of plans.
Sitting in Joshua Tree National Park during her trip, she looked at a map and saw Los Angeles and San Diego. While trying to decide where to point her car in the direction of next, Parker liked the sound of Balboa Park in San Diego and drove south.
Parker used her engineering degree in her first job as a safety engineer before realizing it wasn’t where she was meant to be.
“I realized what I loved most about that job was I would do a lot of the training for the interns that came in. And I was TA in college and I just had a natural affinity figuring out how someone learns,” Parker said.
In fact, Parker was avoiding going into education as a form of rebellion against her parents. Her mom was a teacher and her father was a superintendent so Parker tried to find something as far from teaching as possible.
“And then when I matured and realized where my real strengths were I got my teaching credential,” Parker said. “My dad always knew I’d come around.”
Parker’s real strength however resides in her leadership style. The door to her office, when she isn’t on the blacktop at recess playing handball with Cardiff’s students whom she also greets by name every day to campus, has always been open as a judgment-free zone where teachers and staff can come to her with their thoughts.
Lynn Sallans, a teacher and parent at the school, praised Parker’s ability to always know just what any situation needed.
“She really is very good at reading her staff, her families, her students. Kind of just knowing what they need and when they need it,” Sallans said.
Parker’s communication ability has been critical to making sure everyone on campus is always on the same page, according to Christa Stone, another teacher at Cardiff.
“She has been great at being able to let each side see where maybe the other side is coming from so that it’s a cohesive team between parents and staff and everybody,” Stone said.
And Parker’s positive energy will surely be missed both on and off-campus. During the period where classes were held online during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Parker made it a point to make a trip to each teacher’s home to deliver personalized gifts to thank them for their work during the extraordinary time for teachers and students.
“And not all of the teachers live super close,” Stone said.
In many ways, it appears that Parker has life figured out. She has a home nearby the beach in Cardiff, has retired a couple of years early, will get to see her son off to college in the fall and now, after two and half decades leading the Cardiff School can focus on her many outdoor interests, all while holding on to her youthful and positive energy.
In a combined statement, the teachers of Cardiff School express the exceedingly bittersweet notion of saying goodbye to their longtime leader and friend:
“Ms. Parker has led our school from the 20th to the 21st Century, helping guide programs such as Garden to Lunch, Cardio Club, and our STEAM Lab. She has kept us on the forward edge of technology in education and kept a focus on the values of our community throughout her tenure.
Students love running at Cardio Club and playing wallball with Ms. Parker. Teachers value the confidence, respect, and fairness she displays. Families appreciate the personal and professional balance with which Ms. Parker has led, keeping Cardiff School a gem of the community.
While we wish her well in this next chapter of life, Cardiff School will miss seeing Ms. Parker’s cheerful grin around the new campus she helped to bring to reality.”