New Los Altos High principal picked to replace longtime leader | News


Tracey Runeare will succeed Wynne Satterwhite as the principal of Los Altos High School starting this fall, marking the first time in nearly two decades that it’s had a new leader.

Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District (MVLA) Superintendent Nellie Meyer announced the appointment during a Monday, May 22, school board meeting. The board unanimously approved the hire later in the meeting.

Satterwhite, who has led Los Altos High since 2004, announced last month that she plans to retire after this school year. Runeare told the school board at Monday’s meeting that she is looking forward to her new position and thanked Satterwhite for her long tenure at Los Altos High.

“I am so excited to begin at Los Altos High,” Runeare told the Voice. “I feel like it’s a privilege to work in MVLA and I can’t wait to get started.”

Runeare comes to Los Altos from Harbor High School in Santa Cruz, where she has served as principal since 2016, according to an MVLA press release. She was the school’s assistant principal from 2012 to 2016 and worked as an assistant principal at Watsonville High School for the two years before that, Runeare said. Prior to moving into school administration, Runeare said she was a social studies teacher at various schools for 15 years.

Meyer told the Voice that Runeare stood out because of her experience as a principal at Harbor High, as well as her time as an administrator at Watsonville High, which is similar in size to Los Altos High. Harbor has roughly 1,000 students, while Los Altos and Watsonville each have over 2,000.

“She also was very student-focused and … exuded a sense of energy and optimism,” Meyer said.

Runeare said that she was interested in the Los Altos High position because it was a chance to work at a larger school in a new area. Her two sons also recently graduated from Harbor High.

Under her leadership at Harbor, the school launched an International Baccalaureate program in the 2020-21 school year, which Runeare credited with helping to increase enrollment. She also helped lead bond-funded facilities improvements at the high school, as well as a rebranding effort.

As she takes over from Satterwhite at Los Altos High, Runeare said that she wants to listen and ask questions, rather than coming in with preconceived ideas about what her plans should be.

“I can’t wait to meet more students. I want to meet the staff, of course, and just hear what other people who have been there for a while feel like are the priorities,” Runeare said. “My style of leadership is really collaborative and so that’s what I want to do – I want to be leaders with the teachers and the staff.”

Runeare has a bachelor’s degree in social science and a master’s in education from San Jose State University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership from San Francisco State University.

For her doctoral research, Runeare said that she is focusing on the fees that are often associated with public schools, including costs for Advanced Placement exams, dances and parking permits. These fees vary widely among districts and can pose barriers for students, Runeare said. She is exploring how school leaders decide what costs to cover and which they ask students to pay. She expects to receive the doctorate next May.

Runeare said that MVLA’s focus on both excellence and equity appealed to her. To her, equity means making sure that all students feel like they belong at school and are able to access the opportunities it has to offer.

“I have always been drawn to public education,” Runeare said in the press release. “I see it as a part of a larger project that includes protecting our democracy and breaking down economic and social barriers embedded in our society and the educational system.”

Born in San Jose and raised in Morgan Hill, Runeare currently lives with her family in Ben Lomond, the release said.

Correction: Tracey Runeare was born in San Jose. The original article listed Santa Cruz due to an error in the school district’s press release.

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