Analy High students start first day with new principal, vice principals

New principal Chuck Wade gave a message of hope but said nothing of previous controversies as he opened the year’s first school assembly.|

Nearly 1,500 students filled the bleachers at Analy High School Wednesday morning for a first day of school tradition: watching their teachers and faculty do a choreographed dance on the football field.

Among the dancing educators was new principal Chuck Wade and new vice principals Giana De Persiis Vona and Patricia “Trish” Delzell.

The three are two-stepping into their first year at Analy, after the previous administrative team resigned last spring. The resignations followed controversy with Superintendent Chris Meredith and a series of unpopular district decisions after the school’s consolidation with El Molino High School in 2021.

Wade, seemingly content to let the past be the past, opened the assembly introducing himself in a short speech without referring to the history.

“Here’s what I would wish for you today,” Wade started, “For you to find your place here.”

He said he hoped that when it comes time for students to leave Analy, they feel prepared for the real world. He directed those remarks at seniors who are starting their last first day of high school.

After Wade, the two new vice principals addressed students. They acknowledged staff and faculty, janitors and campus supervisors alike, who keep the campus safe and clean.

Then began the stampede of teachers, all in matching blue Analy shirts and holding bandannas to start the annual welcome dance.

The loudest cheers came from Analy’s Associated Student Body, who also sat on the football field. Gigi Evans, senior and student body president, reminded them of the spirit events yet to come.

“I’m definitely looking to have some more participation this year,” Evans said, after the assembly. “I know last year we talked about it before the school year ended and we agreed that we wanted to have more spirit and bigger school culture.”

She said that students still feel the echoing from the controversial consolidation.

“It’s been a lot … everybody removing themselves as just an Analy or El Molino student,” Evans said. “That's put a lot of impact on the school itself, but hopefully this year we can rewind from that and just be our own school.”

The three new administrators are hoping for the same.

In their preparation for the school year, they say they feel confident that many of the existing systems put in place by the previous administration have continued to work well, and are mostly aiming to add on to existing structures, rather than reconfigure them altogether.

“One of our first activities together really was to talk about (our) own values a little bit and to choose areas of responsibility, based on things that we felt sort of a personal moral imperative about,” Wade said.

The team stapled up dozens of paper slips with values, goals and areas of education on a bulletin board in Wade’s office.

For Wade, a slip with career technical education and readiness was the first to be stapled. For Delzell, it was improving special education. De Persiis Vona’s paper slip outlined student mental health and wellness.

De Persiis Vona is not alone in prioritizing wellness. Many schools will pilot “Wellness Centers” this year, which are mental health hubs able to provide a range of professional support for students.

Analy has partnered with West County Health Services to implement their own. This program has not yet required much additional funding, as the center is being housed in an existing student services building on campus.

“One of our big pushes really is with this Wellness Center and working on a system of referral, so that students who need support, get support, and that we close the loop with folks who need to know about what kinds of support that a student (may) need,” Wade said.

A teacher on special assignment for inclusion also has been hired. This teacher will help students self-advocate for issues that arise between a student and their peers, their teachers or faculty on campus.

“I think the reason we think that's important is because we know that high school can be tough, but it's not the last place that is going to be, right?” Wade said. “So we feel an obligation to develop those skills for students so that they can actually solve their own problems.”

A large part of wellness includes keeping up with the students who’ve been affected by the consolidation, De Persiis Vona said. She said that while students enter their third year as “Ligers” (a combination of Analy’s tiger mascot and El Molino’s lion mascot), “that doesn’t mean there’s not still healing to be done.”

“I think about it from an issue of equity,” De Persiis Vona said. “For me, continuing to look at the impacts, I think we all have that on our minds — how families and kids are affected by the change.”

This includes keeping a close eye on the school’s bus system, she said, as there are students who travel much farther to school than their peers.

On the first day, even the appearance of the school seems to have adapted to the mixture of what was once two separate schools. The school’s new slogan, “Eye of a tiger, heart of a lion,” and its red and blue redesign incorporates Analy’s old school colors (blue and black) combined with El Molino’s (red and white).

In the hallways, new tile alternates between the two colors, and “definitely, you see signs of that integration all around,” De Persiis Vona said.

Other changes included new floors installed over the summer, along with continued maintenance and updates to facilities including repairing HVAC systems, roofing and lighting across the campus, some of which are still in progress.

In the meantime, Wade hopes to focus attention on making the school environment “relevant, interesting and fun,” with hopes to re-engage students who have fallen behind in recent years.

Since the pandemic, students statewide and in Sonoma County have fallen behind in academics; math is a distinctive problem area for high school students.

According to California Department of Education data, 11th grade test scores from students in the West Sonoma County district are four points above state average as of the 2021-22 school year. Despite this, the state average and county average remains relatively low, with just under 31% of Analy students meeting or exceeding math test score standards.

“The sub demographic groups that are struggling most in academic achievement also show the least engagement,” Wade said. “One way to look at some of the problems is the failures of the adults to engage the students. Our first task is to create relationships, curriculum and practices that make students want to be there.”

When it comes to the relationship between administration and Superintendent Meredith — whose leadership was questioned by the teachers’ union in response to the resignation of the previous administration team — Wade feels confident their communication is already off to a good start.

After years of disruption from the controversial consolidation, COVID-19, wildfires and other trauma, students seem to be welcoming Wade, De Persiis Vona and Delzell, and hoping things stabilize.

“I’m just excited to be here, I love school and I love learning,” said senior and Associated Student Body Class Treasurer Nicholas Zapp.

“I think we’re a lot more than what we look like from the outside,” Evans said. “And we’re trying, it’s just been changes after changes after changes and we’re all trying to cope with it.”

Report For America corps member Adriana Gutierrez covers education and child welfare issues for The Press Democrat. Reach her at

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