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Principal's Message

Sean Boulton

Dear Sailor Nation,


The sun finally came out after gloomy June, and July has been glorious. I hope that the remaining weeks of your summer are just as sunny. I can’t wait to see everyone back on campus, refreshed and ready for a great 2023-24!


Over the last two school years, we have been building continuous momentum; each month seems better than the last. We will be entering Newport Harbor’s 94th year with the wind in our sails and a palpable undercurrent of SAILOR PRIDE.


On behalf of all staff and students, I would like to thank the community for your ongoing support. Public schools are the backbone of our free society. More importantly, NHHS is OUR local school: We provide the youth of our community with experiences that foster academic growth, support lifelong learning, and prepare students for a future of opportunity beyond our “safe harbor.”


Our school embraces a continuous improvement mindset. We know we are not perfect, but we strive to get better every day—and we encourage all students to accept their own imperfections even as they work to growth past them. August 21st represents a new beginning for every student... an exciting time to reflect, refocus, and bring a fresh perspective to learning and to life.


Whether your family is new to the school or eyeing the graduation stage in June, we hope you find Newport Harbor to be vibrant, lively, and full of energy.


Please read all updates following this message. There is always a ton to report going into the new year, and it’s tough to prioritize any one thing over another. All items are important.


And, as always, Go SAILORS!



Sean Boulton, School Principal




UPDATES – Please read all.


I.       Student Registration


·         FRESHMEN - Monday August 7th, 8:30  am-2:00pm (all day event)

·         SOPHOMORES & JUNIORS – Tuesday August 8th, 9:00am-1:00pm

·         SENIORS – Wednesday August 9th, 9:00am-1:00pm

·         MAKE-UP – Tuesday August 15th, 2:00-5:00pm


II.     Academics


For students to have the best possible learning experiences and to prepare themselves for success in the world beyond high school, Newport Harbor continually assesses academic results and takes steps to improve as an institution. Here the key drivers of our ongoing process:


1.Data-Driven Decision Making: Some data is quantifiable (such as test scores, attendance, and discipline rates); other data is more qualitative (such as individual skill level, student background, and the teacher’s instructional approach). By collecting and analyzing all data, faculty, staff, and administration at NHHS can identify strengths and areas for improvement—and make informed decisions about curriculum, instruction, and resource allocation.


2. Professional Development: High-quality, ongoing professional development for faculty and staff is crucial to enhance instruction and keep teachers updated with the latest educational research and best practices.


3. Curriculum Review & Revision: In departments and on grade-level teams, teachers and administrators regularly review and update curriculum to ensure that it remains relevant, aligns with educational standards, and meets the needs of diverse learners.


4. Individualized Program: Recognizing the diverse learning needs of its students, NHHS strives to provide differentiated instruction, personalized learning plans for special populations, and targeted interventions to help students succeed academically.


5. Assessment & Feedback: Regular assessments and feedback allow instructors to monitor student progress. Both daily teacher observations and student performance on formal assessments offer valuable insights into student understanding and inform instructional adjustments.


6. Parent & Community Involvement: Engaging parents and the local community is critical. Through our Newport Harbor Education Foundation, Newport Harbor Athletic Foundation, English Language Advisory Council (ELAC), PTA, School Site Council (SSC), and IEP/504 teams, we have not only opened avenues of academic support for students, but we have also established many channels of communication to maximize input and feedback.


7. Social & Emotional Support: Addressing our students' social and emotional well-being is integral to their success; students dealing with mental illness, suffering trauma, facing overwhelming emotional demands, or dealing with adverse material circumstances are less likely to reach their academic potential. We are always seeking ways to expand and improve our counseling services, mentoring programs, and social-emotional supports.


8. Continuous Evaluation & Reflection: We regularly gather feedback from students, staff, parents, and the community to inform planning and decision-making.


9. Collaborative Leadership: Effective school leadership involves collaboration among administrators, teachers, and staff. At NHHS, we strive for a shared vision of academic improvement, transparent communication, and a culture of innovation.


10. Goals & Benchmarks: We have identified seven instructional goals for 2023-2024.

·         Increase college readiness in science and math (A-G completion)

·         Increase subgroup performance on state tests (SBAC/CASSP)

·         Increase English learner reclassification rates (ELPAC growth)

·         Increase Career & Technical Education pathway participation and completion

·         Increase credit completion (lower D & F rate)

·         Professional development in instructional strategies

·         Expand capacity for professional collaboration


No single newsletter update can capture everything about academic life at Newport Harbor, but I hope this overview offers a sense of the principles that guide us.


III.  On Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect


During the 2023-24 school year, we will be undergoing an accreditation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); this happens once every six years, with a three-year interim report. WASC requires schools to be transparent about their operations, performance, and outcomes. Periodic reviews solicit input from all stakeholders to ensure that schools are held accountable. In the last WASC report our reviewers challenged us to build a more tolerant campus.


We have done just that.


Of course, the work of human relations is never complete; efforts to foster diversity and inclusion require ongoing attention. There is always improvement to be made, and for those students feeling the sting of hate at any given moment, our progress on a three- or six-year timeline offers little comfort.


Still, the calls for inclusivity and diversity come from all quarters:


·         State Senate - The FAIR Act (Senate Bill 48) has been in effect for over a decade.

·         California Department of Education - The CA Ed code will require Ethnic Studies for all high school graduates in the class of 2030 and beyond.

·         Newport Mesa Unified Board of Trustees – In 2019, upon recommendation from a committee of parents, students, employees, and Trustees, the Board instituted professional development on diversity and directed schools to combat hate.

·         NMUSD Administration – Since 2015, district administrators have taken a series of well-documented steps to comply with state laws regarding gender: staff training, policy & procedures updates, infrastructure upgrades, etc.

·         Newport Harbor Administration – For the last seven years, “Diversity is our strength” has been part of the Newport Harbor brand identity.

·         Newport Harbor Teachers – Following political infighting on campus during the 2016 presidential campaign, NHHS teachers banded together to form the Inclusion Council, which brings together students, faculty, admin, Board members, and community liaisons with the single purpose of making our campus a more inclusive place.

·         Newport Harbor Tradition – For over 20 years, our BRIDGES Club has built a more positive campus community and helped develop the next generation of leaders. (For more detail, listen to the public comments during the June 20 Board meeting, starting at 28:20.)

·         Newport Harbor Students – Our Sailors align themselves with so many different organizations that have a common mission of making the campus more welcoming and positive: The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Latinos Unidos, Prism, ASB, The Student Political Action Committee, Link Crew, The Feminist Club, among many others.


Despite this up-and-down consensus, our diversity and inclusion work has come under attack by a small group of naysayers. At their best, these folks are out of touch; at their worst, they’re targeting our community schools, our students, and our teachers to advance a political agenda.  However, since 2016, we have been clear and transparent in our commitment to build a more inclusive campus. Do not allow the recent antics of a few malcontents to distract you from our progress on the long-term project of creating a more just and equitable school.


Entering my eleventh year at the helm of Newport Harbor, I can assure you that we are as committed as ever to building the capacity for deeper understanding, empathy, respect, and love for our fellow humans.


IV.  New Roles


NICOLE MACK, Counselor

Nicole has been a member of the NHHS Counseling Department for the last 5 years as the Support Secretary and is beyond excited to start her new role as a school counselor in the 2023-2024 school year. Nicole received her BA in Behavioral Sciences with an emphasis in Sociology, MAEd in School Counseling, and PPS Credential from Concordia University, Irvine. She has been involved in facilitating college and career events, coordinating scholarship opportunities and awards night for seniors, and assisting with our Link Crew program. It was through these experiences at NHHS that she discovered she wanted to pursue a career in School Counseling and is truly honored to continue working with the Sailor community. In her free time, Nicole loves spending time with her husband, son, family and friends, and visiting Disneyland. She looks forward to starting her new role and continuing to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all students. Go Sailors!


Fabiola (Fabi) Hemmerling's professional career spans almost 20 years of service within the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. She began her journey as a School/Community Facilitator and a Family Outreach Advocate, working tirelessly to bridge the gap between schools, families, and the community. Her unwavering commitment to supporting students and their families has earned her a well-deserved reputation for being compassionate, approachable, and dedicated.


Since 2010, Fabi has held the esteemed position of School/Community Facilitator at Newport       Harbor High School, which she considers her second home. Over the years, she has cultivated strong relationships with parents and students, earning their trust and becoming an invaluable resource for their educational and emotional needs.


Recognizing her deep passion for making a difference in students' lives, Fabi eagerly embraces her new role as a School Counselor at Newport Harbor.


Beyond her professional endeavors, Fabi finds joy in her hobbies. She loves cooking, using her culinary skills to create delicious meals for her loved ones. Gardening is another passion of hers, where she finds solace and beauty in nurturing plants and creating vibrant outdoor spaces. Spending quality time with her husband, Steven, son, Milo, and daughter, Rommy, brings her immense happiness and fulfillment.


PATRICK MURPHY, Varsity Softball Coach

Patrick is in his 14th year teaching Special Education at NHHS but will be taking over the softball program this school year. Mr. Murphy has twenty-seven years of coaching high school athletics, and has also coached baseball, tennis, and basketball. He led the NHHS Baseball team to a playoff berth in 2010, and most recently was the hitting/pitching coach at Orange Lutheran High School.


V.    New Staff


LISSA SLAY, Drama & Theatre

Lissa Slay is a director, educator, and teaching artist, holding a B.A. in Directing for the Theatre (CSUF), M.S. in Education (CSUF), M.F.A. in Theatre Education (MUW), and California Teaching Credentials in both primary (multiple-subject, authorization for Drama/Theatre - CSUF) and secondary education (English - UCLA). Lissa comes to Newport Harbor after having served as the Director of Theatre Arts at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. Lissa is no stranger to the Newport-Mesa community, having served as the after-school theatre director at several elementary school sites, including Newport Coast Elementary and Harbor View Elementary. She is currently adjunct faculty at Vanguard University, where she teaches Theatre Education, and is a teaching artist for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts; she has taught as an elementary theatre teacher in Orange Unified School District, Theatre adjunct faculty at Chaffey College, acting teacher at the film conservatory The Playground, and toured seventeen states over four tours with the acclaimed Missoula Children’s Theatre. She has also served two terms as the Scholarships Coordinator for California State Thespians. Lissa and her husband, Kevin, are the joyful parents of Penelope ‘33 and Finley ‘34.  She is  also a proud member of the Educational Theatre Association, California Educational Theatre Association, and Actors' Equity Association.



Jose completed his Master of Arts in Teaching at UCI just last year and did his student teaching at Newport Harbor with Mr. Chalmers. Jose earned his BA at UCI in History in 2022. Jose was raised in Costa Mesa and is an alum of Costa Mesa High School, class of 2012. He first worked in Newport Beach as a security supervisor at the Castaways HOA for many years, and as a transporter for Hoag Hospital. Jose is passionate about history, sports, and doing whatever he can to give students a good schooling experience!

HANNAH PERRY, Special Education

Hannah is a graduate of Newport Harbor High School. She went onto study at the University of Alabama, majoring in Kinesiology and Nutrition. Upon graduating from Alabama, she decided to pursue a postgraduate degree from Cal State Long Beach and is back in the classroom after teaching at Cloud Campus for the past two years. Hannah just got married this summer and adopted a golden retriever puppy named Murphy. She is an avid golfer, and loves spending time outdoors!


SHANE LUTH, Physical Education Teacher

Shane grew up in Huntington Beach and attended Marina High School, where he was a four-year varsity water polo player and swimmer. Shane continued his education and water polo career at California State University, Long Beach, where he earned his degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies. After graduating from CSULB in 2013, he began his coaching career while pursuing a teaching credential in Physical Education. Shane completed his student teaching under Larry Hirst at Newport Harbor and joined the coaching staff of the boy's water polo team in 2018.

Shane’s hobbies include camping, playing basketball (Go Lakers), and spending time with his wife; he is getting ready to welcome a baby boy in September!

GRACE SOHN, Biology Teacher

Grace joins the Newport Harbor staff as a biology teacher and high school science TOSA this year. She is a dedicated educator with a diverse background in teaching. While the focus of her teaching career has been centered around middle school, her experiences include teaching students as young as first grade to as old as high schoolers in both Title 1 and non-Title 1 schools, including supporting student teachers at Chapman University. She has been teaching for 15 years and is committed to helping students develop critical thinking skills as they engage in science learning. Grace holds a multiple subject credential, a 6-8 foundational sciences credential, and a single subject biology credential. She obtained a Master's degree at California State University Fullerton in Environmental Studies and continues to find ways to incorporate environmental literacy into science curriculum. Grace and her husband, David, have two daughters, Cara (14) and Hannah (13) and one son, Jonathan (10). In her spare time, she loves hiking, traveling, trying new foods, and watching her children play their sports.


Heather Kroeger, Biology Teacher

Heather Kroeger is an alumna of NHHS (2001) and UC Berkeley (2005) and has been teaching in the district for 15 years. She has taught most science courses and served as a department chair, Instructional Coach, and Site Tech Coordinator. She enjoys the outdoors, especially backpacking, rock climbing, and SCUBA. An avid traveler, she has traveled to all the continents except Antarctica. Heather’s husband is a physics teacher at Trabuco Hills High School and together they are raising an energetic six year old boy and a sweet Rhodesian Ridgeback mix puppy.

KATHERYN NAVAS, Biology Teacher

Katheryn began teaching chemistry at Costa Mesa High School during the 2007-08 school year.  She graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in geography and earned her teaching credential from California State Fullerton.


KYLE BOORE, Girls Wrestling   

Coach Boore enters his first  year as Head Coach of Newport Harbor Girls Wrestling Program. Last year Coach Boore was the assistant coach and helped crown Newport Harbor’s first State and National Champion Eduarda Rodrigues. The program also crowned 2 CIF individual champions (Skyler Gassel and Eduarda Rodrigues). Prior to coaching at Newport Harbor, Coach Boore was assistant coach at his Alma Mater Harper College in Palatine, IL. Under his 10-year tenure he coached 39 all-Americans, including 5 National Champions. The Hawks were Crowned National Champs in 2010. They are the only non-scholarship school to ever win the title.  


As a competitor, Coach Boore was a National Qualifier in 2004 for Harper College. A graduate of Ledyard High School in Ledyard, CT, he was a 2-time Varsity letter winner. The Colonels earned back-to-back State Titles (1999, 2000). His Senior season as team captain he wrestled to a 5th place finish at the State Tournament. Coach Boore has been a part of programs with rich wrestling traditions. He hopes to take what he has learned from being a part of these programs and pass it along to the next generation of wrestlers. He is excited for what is in store for the NHHS Girls Wrestling Team and wants everyone to know we are just getting started. 


RIGO PINON, Boys Wrestling

Coach Rigo Piñon is from Costa Mesa, Ca. He is an alumnus of Newport Harbor High School (1998). He wrestled for three years at Newport Harbor High School, and during this time he became a 2xCalifornia State Qualifier (119lbs.). During his senior year he placed 6th at CIF California State championships. Coach Piñon came back to Newport Harbor High School as an assistant varsity coach in 2018. He has helped grow the wrestling program in the last five years. Over the course of his coaching career, he has had multiple CIF qualifiers and placers. Coach Piñon has been married to his wife Carolina since 2011. They have three sons, Matthew (17), Logan (13), and Eli (6).  



VI.  Facility Upgrades



Both fields are undergoing an extensive upgrade, and this is the short-term fix within a long-term project. The fields will receive new irrigation, sod, fencing updates, and dugout upgrades—along with enclosures to prevent dogs, rodents, etc. from coming onto the fields when they are not being used. Work started this summer and will continue for the next few years for a complete upgrade of both facilities.            



Phase I of this upgrade, which has been fully approved, will start in the spring of 2024. The scope of phase II will evolve this fall, and project details will be shared with the boarder community when available. In the end, our aquatics facility at Newport Harbor will truly represent our nationally recognized programs.  



Both gyms had extensive roof repairs this summer, and we fumigated for termites. The rain this past winter wreaked havoc on our historic facility, and this project ought to put an end to the leaks.



Cracks and holes in each lot were repaired, and both surfaces were slurry-sealed and restriped.


Of course, this is all on top of the great work our site-level custodial crew does every day in ongoing maintenance—not to mention the deep-clean they give to every classroom on campus in preparation for the incoming students.





NHHS Administration smiling on a boat wearing jerseys.