By Edwin Folven, 3/15/2012
Ed Zubiate Had 30 Year Career as a Teacher and Administrator
When he became principal at Fairfax High School six years ago, Ed Zubiate embarked upon a journey to improve academics and facilities at the campus, while reconnecting with the surrounding community. On Feb. 29, Zubiate abruptly retired as the school’s principal, after largely accomplishing his goals, he said.
Zubiate said he planned to retire at the end of the school year in June, but chose to leave early to give the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plenty of time to choose a successor before new budget challenges and redistricting changes take effect this summer. Zubiate also said that at age 63, and with 30 years with the LAUSD, he had reached the district’s maximum requirements in age and length of service, and had decided to focus on his family and health. The district has replaced Zubiate with an interim principal, Robert Di Pietro, who will lead the school temporarily. LAUSD spokesperson Gayle Pollard-Terry said there was no information available about when a permanent successor would be chosen, or who is being considered.
The timing of Zubiate’s departure was somewhat unexpected, but most people at the school were aware that he was planning to leave.
“It was a little bit of a surprise because we all expected him to leave in June. He even talked about retiring at the end of last year, but decided to stick it out one more year,” said Joyce Kleifield, director of development at Fairfax High School. “It was very sad to hear he was leaving, but he will continue to do some consulting with us.”
Zubiate said he does plan to continue working with the school’s development office, the Greenway Arts Alliance and Friends of Fairfax, groups that raise funding to support the school. He said he wants to continue moving forward a plan to create an endowment for the school that could offset future budget cuts, and wants to continue building bridges with alumni and members of the surrounding community. An alumni concert is planned for June with Fairfax High alum Herb Alpert to bring in funding for the endowment, but plans are still being worked out, Zubiate said.
“I wanted to take care of my health and I had reached the maximum age now for retirement,” Zubiate added. “I had been talking about retirement for three years, and now I will have the chance to not worry about the day-to-day operations, but focus on things at the school that I can help improve.”
During Zubiate’s tenure, the school completed many physical improvements, including refurbishing the school’s auditorium, re-landscaping the campus, and installing American Disability Association-compliant amenities. The school is also in the process of completing a project to build a new track and football stadium. Zubiate said he fought to improve academic test scores and keep class sizes down, all while facing budget cuts during the past four years, that have resulted in the loss of 15 teachers and 20 custodians and clerical staff members. He added that the LAUSD is in the process of redistricting, which will be completed by July 1, and although the exact details of how redistricting will affect the campus have not been determined, Zubiate said he wanted the new principal to have time to prepare.
The former principal added that he will miss many things about the school, but one of the main things is the students.
“What makes the school so special is the kids. It’s so diverse and they get along so well. It’s exactly what you want our city to be,” Zubiate said. “It was really hard to walk away from those kids, but we did a lot of good things over the last six years. We rebuilt the school physically and we reconnected with the community, and we did all of those things during one of the worst financial periods in LAUSD history.”
West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffery Prang, who worked with Zubiate on the refurbishment of the auditorium so it could be used for outside events sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, said the principal will be hard to replace.
“Ed’s retirement is a huge loss,” Prang added. “He was a visionary educator and leader who made significant changes at Fairfax.”