Even securing a seat on the ground was difficult Wednesday morning at La Colina Junior High School as more than a thousand students and family members celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2019.
But it wasn’t just the students who were graduating. David Ortiz is retiring after serving as the school’s principal for two decades.
Mr. Ortiz has been a key player in Santa Barbara-area education for more than 30 years. In total, Mr. Ortiz has worked in education for over 40 years.
Looking back, Mr. Ortiz recognizes the value of perseverance. When addressing students, families and his fellow staff members, he shared the hurdles he has overcome (two hip replacements, brain surgery and knee surgery) on his journey as the principal. He urged the students to never give up in the face of adversity and to always remember, “I’m proud of you. I love you.”
And the students seem to love him as well. After the graduation ceremony, students and parents swarmed around the former principal for pictures and memos in their yearbooks.
Fortunately, this may not be the last the Santa Barbara community sees of Mr. Ortiz.
“After some trips,” Mr. Ortiz told the News-Press, “I’ll make my way back to the community under the umbrella of helping kids.”
Until that moment arrives, he plans on “stepping back to reflect and relax,” traveling to Washington, D.C. where his granddaughters Sofia and Lola, live.
As he leaves La Colina at age 65, Mr. Ortiz is passing on the school’s keys to Jennifer Foster.
“I’m super excited on continuing the legacy and the great work here,” said Ms. Foster, who has been La Colina’s assistant principal for three years. Ms. Foster will officially take over as principal on July 1.
Ms. Foster told the News-Press that she is happy for the amazing staff at La Colina to continue Mr. Ortiz’s legacy.