Alberto Solorzano's path to Amador Valley principal is full of "accidents," he said. Starting with his foray into teaching.
Solorzano was working at a soccer camp one summer during his college years, when one day his coach asked him what he was studying. He replied that he was on a track to become a physical therapist.
"He was like, 'Why?' You're great with kids, kids respond to you, you enjoy being around them," Solorzano recalled. "You ever thought about going into teaching? " That conversation changed the trajectory of his life.
Solorzano has now taken the reins at the 2,700-student high school on Santa Rita Road, in the wake of former principal Michael Williams' departure after Williams assumed a position at the district office. He said he feels fortunate to come to Amador at a time when "the foundation's been set," and students with varying needs and performance levels can benefit from many opportunities.
"Amador has been a nationally award-winning school, clearly one of the top schools in the state of California," he said. "It has already programs and services that are addressing those needs. It's now my opportunity to see how can we enhance."
Solorzano grew up just south of Pleasanton in Union City, and attended James Logan High School in the New Haven Unified School District, before moving on to San Francisco State University where he graduated with his bachelor of arts in kinesiology. He later earned a master of science degree from California State University, East Bay in educational leadership.
He taught physical education and health back at James Logan High, along with coaching boys' soccer, before getting into administration -- also by accident, he said.
"My principal at my final, end-of-year evaluation, asked me, 'You ever thought of going into the administration?'" he said.
He became a vice principal and then house principal of his alma mater, James Logan, and then was named principal at the district's Cesar Chavez Middle School. After 18 years in New Haven Unified, he left to assume the post of Livermore High School principal in 2012 -- at the behest of his former teaching colleague Kelly Bowers, who is currently the superintendent of Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. He would stay there through 2015.
A focus of his tenure at Livermore was changing the students' own perception of themselves and their school -- they often saw themselves as being less academic than students at their rival Granada High School.
"We're the mighty Livermore Cowboys, right?" he said. "Kind of re-energizing the school culture, with positivity, positive school messages. Always being there, visible and supporting kids, especially our students that are struggling."
A few years later, Solorzano's path took a somewhat unexpected turn when Bowers asked him for a favor. One of the district's elementary schools was struggling, in need of strong leadership. It was a Title 1 school, meaning that a large portion of the student population came from low socio-economic backgrounds, and hadgone through several principals without gaining much "traction," he said.
So Solorzano acceded to the superintendent's request and stepped into the principalship at Marilyn Elementary.
"We did some things with interventions, we did some things with pulling the community together," he said. "Building our first ever PTA at the school site."
"And then after two years, we won a gold ribbon school award for our intervention program," he added.
After a few years at Marilyn Elementary, he felt he had seen the full scope of the K-12 experience and was ready to move to a district office. "Not by accident, but by choice," he joked, in 2017 he took a job in the Dublin Unified School District as director of secondary education, where he served last year.
He enjoyed his time in Dublin, he said, but he missed being on a campus.
"It's a town that's booming in housing," he said. "It's booming with more and more families, and more and more students that are entering the school district, and so they're working fast to build schools and also get the second high school.
"But I did a lot of reflection, and I felt it wasn't time. It wasn't time to be away from the school sites, away from the action. And so when Amador Valley became open, I saw it as an opportunity for me to get back where I truly, truly enjoy working, and that's at the high school level."
So far, in his first few months at Amador, he's been working to acquaint himself with the school, students, families and staff, through physically walking the campus along with appearing on weekly TV announcements broadcast through the school.
"If I can always walk into a room, and everybody acknowledges me, then I'm doing my part by being visible and being present," he said.
His daughter is a junior at Amador -- they'd had some long conversations about his prospective post before he had even applied for the job. But she decided that she had well-enough established herself after two years.
Solorzano said he is especially looking forward to working with teachers, and serving as an instructional coach and mentor.
While Pleasanton Unified administration has seen some turnover recently, Solorzano says that his many years doing the "Tri-Valley walk" shows his investment in the region's students. His own recent moves within Livermore and Dublin, he said, were done in the name of students, and, in the case of the elementary school principal post, to help out his superintendent.
"Those are the kinds of things that keeps people motivated," he said. "They stick around. If you're part of an organization that believes in you and they want to invest in you, then you would decrease the amount of turnover."
Amador Valley High School is located at 1155 Santa Rita Road, just outside downtown Pleasanton. Solorzano earns an annual salary of $153,353.