After nine years of teaching students, Brian LaFountain will now lead them as the new principal of Denair Charter Academy.
It was LaFountain’s passion to work with and make a difference in the lives of children that drew him to the world of education. For the past seven years, LaFountain has worked in the Patterson Unified School District. Last year, he was the coordinator of the Open Valley Independent Study program, which he compared to DCA.
“It is an alternative school of choice. It’s very similar to DCA,” LaFountain said. “The biggest difference is DCA is a charter school and has the flexibility that brings.”
DCA offers home-school curriculum for K-8 students as well as an independent study alternative for high school students who haven’t found the right fit in a traditional setting, have work or other family responsibilities or have been expelled. The campus serves about 300 students, most of them high school age.
Though Patterson is his hometown, LaFountain kept a close eye on job openings in Denair. He and his wife bought a house just behind the Denair High football field a couple of years ago. Their 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter attend Denair schools, and now they won’t be far from their father, who jokes that he’s traded a “40-minute commute to Patterson for a 40-second walk to his new office.”
LaFountain grew up in Patterson and graduated from Patterson High School with aspirations to become an attorney, working for the FBI or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. After working a number of jobs, from banking to a full-time position with the Modesto A’s baseball team, LaFountain ultimately ended up following his passion – working with children. He first became a substitute teacher while working to earn his credential, then began his education career as a middle school teacher in Stockton before moving to Patterson seven years ago.
LaFountain replaces Dawn Allen, who left to take a job with the Sylvan Union School District in Modesto. Because he was hired after the school year ended, LaFountain hasn’t had a chance to meet many on his new staff, though he has reached out by phone to introduce himself. He said he walked into an empty office on July 18 after a weeklong camping trip near Lake Tahoe with his family.
“Right now, I’m getting myself acclimated to how they do scheduling and the flow of paper work. I’m learning where we’re at with budgeting and staffing. Fortunately, there are no openings,” he said.
He expects to be formally introduced to his staff Aug. 8 before classes begin Aug. 11. And before that, plans are to turn DCA’s current office into a child-care area and relocate LaFountain and his administrative aides to the old district office nearby.
LaFountain said all the concurrent changes “will make things interesting.”
“I always like trial by fire,” he said with a laugh. “There’s not much that overwhelms me or scares me or that I think that I can’t take on.”