Cheri Flohr has big shoes to fill at Browns Valley Elementary School, but the man she’s replacing as principal — at least for the interim — thinks she’s up to the task.
“She’s the real deal,” Frank Silva said of Flohr at a meeting for Browns Valley parents.
Silva was selected by the Napa Valley Unified School District to take over Napa High School as interim principal, replacing Annie Petrie who is moving into a new position at district headquarters.
With Silva leaving on Nov. 26, the district needed someone to helm Browns Valley Elementary for the remainder of the school year. Officials tabbed Flohr, who spent the past two years working as an assistant principal at American Canyon High School.
Flohr said she’s looking forward to her new opportunity, though she will miss ACHS.
“I’ve loved every minute at American Canyon High School,” Flohr said. “But I don’t live there, I live here” in Browns Valley.
Flohr, who grew up in Napa, brings more than 20 years of education experience to Browns Valley, much of it working as a physical education instructor. She was promoted to assistant principal at ACHS in 2016.
She acknowledged that she doesn’t have a lot of experience with elementary curriculum. But Silva said he will work with Flohr over the coming weeks before he departs for Napa High to prepare her for the principal job.
“I wouldn’t endorse Cheri if she wasn’t the right fit” for this school,” he told parents on Oct. 24.
Silva said he first met Flohr when they both worked at Vintage High School. He said one of the most important qualities for a principal is building relationships, and Flohr knows how to do that, according to Silva.
“She connects with people,” he said.
Silva, who has run Browns Valley Elementary for a decade, is known for developing personal relationships with his students. Parents said he seems to know every student, and he made it priority for his staff to always make each kid feel seen and welcomed when they get to campus.
“One thing we did at Browns Valley was we made a commitment to meeting kids at the door and either giving them a high-five, a handshake or a hug” so they start their day out “great.”
“Another thing we did,” he added, “was embrace the philosophy of what’s best for kids.”
“When you build a community around student need versus adult need, that’s when you get success,” according to Silva.
Some Browns Valley parents at the Oct. 24 meeting expressed concern about losing Silva, particularly so early in the school year.
One mother asked Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti, who oversaw the Browns Valley Elementary meeting, if the sudden change in principals meant there was a “crisis” of some kind.
Mucetti admitted it was “not an opportune time” to shift Silva to Napa High. But she added “there was enough of a need” to make the change now.
The following night on Oct. 25, Mucetti met with Napa High parents and told them Petrie had been through “a lot” during her three years as principal. Petrie’s tenure included two huge controversies: Hazing by football players that led to student expulsions, and replacing the Indian name and logo with the Grizzly.
Silva was chosen to replace Petrie as interim principal because he had the “skill set” to fill a need, according to Mucetti. She also thanked him for taking this “courageous step.”
Morale among Napa High students is said to be down following the past two years, and Silva has experience boosting students’ outlook.
After moving from Alta Heights Elementary School to Browns Valley 10 years ago, Silva had to do some “heavy lifting” because the “morale here wasn’t great,” he said.
District officials said Silva is considered one of NVUSD’s top elementary principals, and is ready to helm a high school.
To get Flohr up to speed at Browns Valley, Silva said “she’s going to be on my hip” and shadow him for a couple of days so she can meet all the students. Also, administrators and teachers at Browns Valley will work closely with Flohr to fill her in on elementary instruction and the systems they have in place.
Silva downplayed her lack of experience as a principal, saying: “You can have someone in an office for 20 years and be horrible.”
He assured parents that Flohr will work out. “She’s going to be good for the school,” said Silva.
Flohr said she’s fortunate that her first principal assignment is at Browns Valley. “There’s nothing more exciting than being at a school that’s running really well,” she said.
Mucetti said the district will revisit Browns Valley and Napa High early next year to evaluate Flohr’s and Silva’s performances, respectively. If they do a good job at their news schools and want to remain as principal, NVUSD may make their interim positions permanent.
Flohr will officially take over on Nov. 26, the same day Silva starts full-time at Napa High.