Mrs. Aguilar’s Last Year As Principal


Photo by Jocelyn Castaneda

After 23 years at EHS, Mrs. Aguilar has been asked to work up in the district as the new Director of Student Wellness, Access and Academic Success.

“I want to be remembered as a principal who helped to create a school culture anchored in inclusivity, spirit and pride while continuing the Aztec tradition of excellence in academics, athletics, arts and activities,” the last quote by Esperanza’s first woman principal, Gina Aguilar.

After 23 years of commitment to EHS alone and four of those years as the principal,  Aguilar has decided to continue her career at the district level. Shortly after the PYLUSD Board of Education appointed her as the new Director of High School Education, she had alerted the Aztec family via a touching email.

Aguilar began her career at EHS in 1998 as a counselor for 14 years, then she transitioned into assistant principal and oversaw the student services aspect of the running of the school for three years and then became the first woman principal in 2017. Evidently, EHS has become her home where she’s made many memories with students and staff. When asked what she would miss most, she said, “I’ll miss the people. In 23 years, I’ve created a lot of relationships with staff members and not getting to work with those people who share a similar vision and passion for education. I’ll also greatly miss just seeing kids and directly supporting them and cheering them on.”

“I never had an established career plan. I always followed my heart and I would take positions that had become available if I felt like I could still make an impact on students. Because this new position has the ability to impact our whole district in the area of student wellness and where my heart lies, it just became an opportunity that I wanted to pursue,” said  Aguilar.

Reflecting on her time here, Aguilar claims her favorite moments were watching the unified sports basketball games. She emotionally said, “Something that always stands out in my mind are the unified sports basketball games in the gym. What’s so special about that is that it represents the inclusive culture of the school that we’ve really tried to build. To me, that’s what school is all about.”

As a senior who has attended Esperanza for many years, I can also agree that the inclusive culture is a rare and beloved aspect that makes our school great. Although principal for only four years, Mrs. Aguilar has done so much to create an environment where we can all feel we belong.

Relating to being principal, Aguilar cherished most the opportunity to support us students. “The reason I got into education is because of students. So just watching students get to engage in all the different aspects of school and being a part of their everyday lives. So whether it’s seeing them in the classroom or on the ball field or on stage, just the energy of working with students everyday is the best part of my job and what I will miss the most about being a principal,” said Aguilar.

Her position as principal did not come without great challenges, however. According to her, the greatest challenge she conquered was this last year and a half in the pandemic. “It’s really hard as a principal to see your staff and your students struggle. Watching people lose what matters most to them and not being able to come to school and have those connections and watch the teachers have to really relearn their profession in some way. It’s been hard to watch that happen and try to continue an atmosphere of positivity and really try to be there to support everyone as we adapt to a challenging year,” said  Aguilar.

As if being a principal through a pandemic is not hard enough, she also had to lead us through many tragedies. Whether it was staff deaths, break ins and vandalism, national school shooting scares, the YL plane crash in 2019, the multiple California wildfires or the finance embezzlement, Aguilar remained our strong bunker that kept this school afloat. She did this all by remaining optimistic and continuing to create a positive atmosphere.

Once the district does an intensive interview process and after communicating with the staff about what qualities they’re looking for in a principal, a new leader will arise. When that happens, Aguilar will be committed to working alongside them to ensure a smooth transition.

“In my opinion, the number one quality the next principal should have is the want to put students first. I think that they have to base their decisions on what’s best for the students, although sometimes those decisions can be difficult to make. I also think they should really care about their staff, be honest, provide open communication and be able to create a team culture among the staff. And lastly, a vision for an inclusive campus where there are opportunities provided for all students to connect to school in some way,” Aguilar added.

Until then, Aguilar is committed to keep up going strong. “As my position here comes to an end, I want to make sure that everyone continues to see the light at the end of the tunnel with what we’ve dealt with in the last year and a half and to encourage everyone to enter next year with hope and optimism going off of the work we’ve done these last few years. Esperanza is an awesome place, with awesome people and the vision of Aztec PRIDE and the tradition of excellence are going to continue,” Aguilar concluded.

Mrs. Aguilar,

We want to thank you greatly for your time here at Esperanza. You have not only shown us the value of being a part of the Esperanza family, but you’ve shown us that with hard work and optimism, we can accomplish anything. You broke the cycle of all male principals and remained strong even through the most difficult of circumstances. Congratulations on this new opportunity, we know you will continue to do great things! Esperanza will miss your presence, but you will always remain a vital part of the Aztec family.