Elsie Allen principal retires after 16 years
As principal of Elsie Allen High School, Mary Gail Stablein focused on preparing students for careers and higher education, boosting on campus the number of college-prep courses, student support services and job training and scholarship opportunities.
But after 16 school years at the southwest Santa Rosa campus, Stablein is ready for a transition. She has retired as the second principal to serve the school since its inception in 1994.
Stablein, who joined the school in 2001, is being succeeded by Gabriel Albavera, a Windsor native and former Elsie Allen assistant principal and counselor.
“The energy on a high school campus is unique,” Stablein said in an interview Thursday. “It’s like running a little city — a lot can happen in a day. I’ll miss the stories kids share with you and helping to guide young people about decisions for their future.”
Stablein said Albavera is an excellent listener, an important quality in a principal.
“It’s so great and really heartening to me to hand off the reins to Gabe. I’m very pleased,” Stablein said.
It was listening to students, parents, faculty and community members in 2011 that led to the start of the Elsie Allen High School Foundation, a nonprofit that supports students by providing mentors, job shadows, career days and scholarships to college and trade schools. She worked closely with La Tortilla Factory co-founder Willie Tamayo to launch the foundation.
To date, the foundation has raised and distributed over $400,000 in scholarships and $100,000 in student services, including support for ACT and SAT test fees and college fees, Stablein said.
Tamayo first met Stablein at a meeting in the fall of 2010. He was impressed with her from the start, he said.
“She always has a warm smile and a sense of humor,” which Tamayo said is “so important” for a principal with 1,000-plus students and faculty.
“She was just intrinsically smart,” he said. “She knew what the students and staff are feeling. She was passionate about creating opportunities for each student to blossom.”
Stablein knew how to connect with community leaders as well as the working-class families of Latino students, Tamayo said. Many Elsie Allen students come from homes where both parents work and haven’t the time — or the education — to assist their children with homework.
Stablein stressed the need for scholarships for her students, even if they were “just a few hundred dollars” to attend Santa Rosa Junior College, Tamayo said.
Stablein also started several programs to prepare students for life after high school. The University Center program partners with Sonoma State University so students can take college preparatory classes. The program started in 2008, about a decade before the Santa Rosa school board voted this spring to require students, starting with next fall’s freshmen, to complete college-prep courses before graduating.
“We’ve been on the forefront of that,” Stablein said.
Other programs started during her tenure were the Certified Nursing Assistants program, the College and Career Center, the school farm and Link Crew, which helps freshman transition to high school. The school also launched Compact for Success, which introduces Cook Middle School students to high school and university settings and guarantees those who meet the program’s criteria a spot at SSU.