A new school year usually brings many new changes, whether it's new books, a fresh coat of paint in the hallways and classrooms, or new faces in charge.
For three Tehachapi schools, there are definitely a few different, although some not new, faces at the helm at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
One of the many new faces is that of Paul Kaminski, the principal at Jacobsen Middle School. The former vice principal at Golden Hills and Cummings Valley Elementary schools has returned to Jacobsen where he served as vice principal for 3 1/2 years between 2009 and 2012.
He began his 18-year history with Tehachapi Unified School District teaching third, fourth and sixth grades for 11 years at Golden Hills, and has spent the past 2-1/2 years as the principal at Cummings Valley.
Kaminski said he has been enjoying his new position, and has noticed a big change in the students at JMS since he was vice principal years ago.
"This is really a good group of kids," he said.
Kaminski ascribes that change to things like the "Character Counts" education program that teaches schoolchildren the basic values called the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Another thing that Kaminski said is helping to shape the behavior of students at the school stem from how discipline is handled. One of his goals this year is to change the way JMS has traditionally handled problem students. Instead of giving lunch time detentions or at-home suspensions, Kaminski's plan centers on students writing essays or constructing cause-and-effect maps of their behaviors -- and when appropriate, they will write apology letters, which are read to the victims. The behavior is placed in the middle of the map with the causes of the behavior on one side and the consequences on the opposite side.
"It is having a positive effect on the kids," he said. "And not just the ones reading the apologies, but listening to them as well."
But the changes at JMS this year are not just limited to discipline; Kaminski has made it a priority to improve the school's math proficiency, implementing a Math Mastery class to raise the levels of understanding.
Amid everything that Kaminski is orchestrating, he somehow still finds time to connect with the students on their level, and said besides having a top-notch staff, there is one main reason he loves his job.
"The kids make it fun," he said.
Meanwhile, Scott Heitman returns to familiar ground, replacing former principal Bev Thompson at Tehachapi High School, a place where he not only began with the district five years ago as a special education teacher, but also served as vice principal for two years.
He most recently served as the district's director of student services.
And while Heitman enjoyed his role in helping Tehachapi's special needs schoolchildren, he is excited to be back on a campus.
"I really missed being around the students and the teachers," he said. "There's been a lot of positive feedback since I've been back and the staff has been great."
Heitman said so far, it has been business as usual, but among the challenges he faces this year is helping his teachers prepare for the switch to the new "Common Core" curriculum, as well as the overall scope of the job.
"As a principal you have an overreaching responsibility," he said. "There are so many moving pieces. THS is active and involved in so many things that it takes up a lot of time."
But Heitman said he would not trade his position for anything, as he enjoys the connection with the kids.
"The coolest thing is coming back and seeing students that I knew as freshmen during my first time here, and now you see them as seniors," he said. "It's very cool to see the maturity process and see how they grow so much. It's an amazing transformation."
Finally, new Cummings Valley Elementary School Principal Julie Boesch is also enjoying her new role.
"Everybody I have met here seems to be here to serve the students," she said. "And that is what I am here to do."
Before arriving in Tehachapi, Boesch served as a regional lead for the after-school program for the Ventura County Office of Education where she oversaw programs in four counties.
While she said the experience of working with the California Department of Education was rewarding, she is excited about being back on site and working closely with the kids every day.
"I really like interacting with the students," she said.
But along with the ups of the job come the challenges, and as a Bakersfield resident, Boesch said her biggest challenge this year has been to get to know the community she is serving, understating Tehachapi's parents and students.
"Building relationships is important, as well as letting people know we care about their kids," she said. "We have an incredible amount of parental support in a positive way here, and it's great."
As for goals, Boesch said the biggest is to change the attitude of why things cannot be done, to looking at the opportunities.
"Let's look at the possibilities and be positive about the potential we do have," she said. "There are so many opportunities for growth and we should never get to a place where just because we are successful, that is good enough. We always want to continue to move forward."
Boesch also said it is an exciting time to be a newcomer.
"People don't necessarily like change, but at this moment in education, change is inevitable," she said.
And while Cummings Valley is no stranger to change, Boesch said there is one thing that is sure to remain unchanged for a while, as she plans on staying around a long time.
"I look forward to building a long-term relationship," she said. "Putting systems in place that will move us forward in a positive direction will take time. And I am truly committed to doing that."