Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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Yavonka Hairston-Truitt Assumes New Principal Role

Roxane Gama
Reading Time: 3 minutes

At Venice High, the name “H.T.” floats around campus. The initials refer to new principal Yavonka Hairston-Truitt, who you may see around campus with a walkie- talkie in her hand, on the sidelines at football games, or at assemblies in the newly renovated auditorium.

Though she is often bustling around campus, she can also be found in her office sitting behind a bulky, white door—sending emails, planning school events, and recording voicemails to send to parents next to a desk plate that reads “WAKE. PRAY. SLAY.”

Hairston-Truitt is originally from Elmira, New York.

“It’s small enough that when you walk around, everyone knows each other’s family,” she said. And though she is from Elmira, she ended up splitting her school years before college between Upstate New York and Los Angeles.

“My mom would move me back and forth, because she wanted me to have a balanced experience,” she said. “You couldn’t go out to play in L.A. as an only child, but you could go to pick berries in the summer with friends and sleep on the porch in Elmira.”

Hairston-Truitt went to 12 different schools between Elmira and Los Angeles. In LAUSD, she went to Third Street Elementary, John Burroughs Middle School, and a magnet program at Canoga Park; she even was in a JROTC program.

She moved back to New York after high school and transferred from Corning Community College to the University of Buffalo, which helped develop her love for the Buffalo Bills.

“I’m always talking about the Buffalo Bills—I’m a big Bills fan,” she said.

Originally Hairston-Truitt planned on being a history professor and not going to graduate school for teaching.

“I went straight into my major, because I had an Associate’s Degree, and I enjoyed it until I went to a professor’s house and realized their lifestyle is not really about humans, it’s about research,” Hairston-Truitt said.

She transitioned into pursuing a career in teaching when she was an upperclassman in college.

Before coming to Venice, where she worked as an assistant principal over special education, she also worked as a history teacher, teaching courses like World History, U.S. History, Geography, and Economics. She also taught as a restorative justice teacher at Washington Preparatory High School.

“I’ve definitely taught my fair share of history,” she said. “I also taught leadership for eight to ten years, and coached many leadership teachers.”

Since her start at Venice as an assistant principal, the school has become a full- inclusion school for special education. Venice is now a district model school for inclusion, which Hairston-Truitt said she’s very proud of.

“We’ve increased graduation rates for special education students. We’ve increased their opportunities to get into and survive four-year colleges,” she said. “It wasn’t easy for the students or the staff to redesign what learning looks like.”

Hairston-Truitt had already planned on shifting to a principal position, though found it difficult to stray from Venice. She said it was an internal battle, because she loved the work she was doing but felt it was time to move up. Soon enough, the principal position for Venice opened after Cynthia Headrick left to be a Director of Options and Virtual Academies within LAUSD.

“It was kind of like an answer to my concerns—I could potentially not leave and still do the work,” she said.

She also pointed out the inconsistencies the Venice administration has faced over the past few years, with principals that would change frequently.

“Because I was so connected with the community, I knew we needed as much continuity as possible,” she said. “We’ve been going through this every couple of years and it’s been heartbreaking and if I could deter that, I want to do so.”

This year, the school has increased enrollment as well as introduced many new teachers to the campus. One of the principal’s goals for this year is to make this transition smooth and to make sure Venice has the capacity to support students and staff.

“I’m a very connected person, I want to be connected to everyone, and the capacity of that has just been kind of like ‘How do you do that?’” she said. “How do you take something you did well on with a smaller scale, and make it work on a larger scale?”

Hairston-Truitt’s word of advice for students is to forgive yourself. “Be okay with what you can control,” she said. “Get up every day and give it your best, and that’s all you can ever do.”

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