“My head is spinning,” said Dr. Eric Bergmann on Wednesday morning, just minutes after he was publicly announced as the next principal of Thousand Oaks High School. “Thrilled. Thrilled beyond description.”
For the last two-and-a- half years, Bergmann had served as San Marino High School’s assistant principal in charge of activities, athletics and discipline. But over the recent winter break, Bergmann noticed a posting for the Thousand Oaks job, which is located within the Conejo Valley School District. Bergmann was in attendance when his nomination was approved by the Conejo Valley school board at its meeting on Tuesday evening.
The Thousand Oaks job became available when former Principal Lou Lichtl was promoted to assistant superintendent.
Bergmann had applied for the principal position at San Marino High School last year when Mary Johnson announced her retirement. Dr. Issaic Gates was named as Johnson’s successor in May, 2017.
“Dr. Eric Bergmann has done an excellent job serving as Assistant Principal of San Marino High School since joining the District in July of 2015,” said Gates. “Although he will be missed, we wish Dr. Bergmann and his family well. Eric’s knowledge, experience, and talents make him an ideal fit for this new position.”
Bergmann said the experience is “bittersweet.”
“I have spent the last two-and-a-half years building relationships with some incredible people and its hard to walk away from that,” Bergmann said. “I define myself by the company I keep and its hard to turn away from the wonderful people in this community. But at the same time, I am excited for the opportunity and the challenge.”
With approximately 2,300 students, Thousand Oaks High School is “a high-performing school relative to other California schools,” according to Bergmann. But academics was not the hook which reeled him in.
“No matter who I talked to, what I heard most from students, staff and community members is what a positive culture exists at Thousand Oaks,” Bergmann told The Tribune. “It was never about academics or athletics or speech or drama or championships. It was about an incredibly positive school spirit and they are very proud of that climate. Hopefully I will be able to walk in and not upset the apple cart.”
Bergmann begins his new job on Monday, Feb. 5 and almost doubles the commute from his home in Rancho Cucamonga.
“I am going to be spending a night or two in cheap hotels,” said Bergmann, who indicated that he would not be making the 180-mile round trip every day. He said he, his wife, Natalie and their two sons will probably relocate over the summer so that his boys can finish the year at their current schools.
Bergmann’s successor is a familiar face in the district. Loren Kleinrock will take over for Bergmann on an interim basis. Kleinrock has served the SMUSD as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and superintendent for more than 30 years.
“Loren is a very good fit for this position,” said Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss. “He understands that school very well.”
Bergmann began his teaching career after becoming discouraged as a law school student.
At Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Bergmann coached baseball, taking a bereft program and getting his team into the second round of the Utah state playoffs in his first year.
At SMHS, Bergmann was cast as an adult in a student drama production last year.
Bergmann’s personal celebration didn’t last long as he prepared for a Wednesday full of sports and activities.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do in these eight days,’ he said, before moving on to the next task.