Profile: New assistant principal ready to lead Guidance department, Wellness and College & Career Centers

Before working at the Palo Alto Unified School District, Haxton began her career as a middle school teacher in urban Philadelphia, but after two years decided to return to graduate studies to focus on educational policy.

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Profile: New assistant principal ready to lead Guidance department, Wellness and College & Career Centers

New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is hard at work in her office at the Guidance department in the library. Among a wide range of administrative tasks, Haxton will be leading the Guidance department, the Wellness Center, and the College & Career Center. “That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.”
Photo: Amy Yu

New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is hard at work in her office at the Guidance department in the library. Among a wide range of administrative tasks, Haxton will be leading the Guidance department, the Wellness Center, and the College & Career Center. “That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.” Photo: Amy Yu

New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is hard at work in her office at the Guidance department in the library. Among a wide range of administrative tasks, Haxton will be leading the Guidance department, the Wellness Center, and the College & Career Center. “That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.” Photo: Amy Yu

New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is hard at work in her office at the Guidance department in the library. Among a wide range of administrative tasks, Haxton will be leading the Guidance department, the Wellness Center, and the College & Career Center. “That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.” Photo: Amy Yu

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New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is ready to lead the Guidance department, Wellness Center, and College and Career Center, one impromptu presentation at a time. 

Before working at the Palo Alto Unified School District, Haxton began her career as a middle school teacher in urban Philadelphia, but after two years decided to return to graduate studies to focus on educational policy.

New assistant principal Clarisse Haxton is hard at work in her office at the Guidance department in the library. Among a wide range of administrative tasks, Haxton will be leading the Guidance department, the Wellness Center, and the College & Career Center. “That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.”
Photo: Amy Yu

Haxton earned a Ph.D in education policy and sociology at the University of Philadelphia, where she also taught statistics, research methods, and sociology of education as well as worked at the American Institutes for Research. 

“When I was in grad school, I really missed schools and teaching,” Haxton said. “So that’s how I ended up at AIR because I wanted to do research, but I wanted to do more research that was directly applicable to schools.”

A significant research focus for Haxton was secondary and post-secondary education, as she wrote a book titled “Improving Equity and Access in Fresno: Lessons from a K12–Higher Education Partnership.” The book discusses the partnership of the Fresno Unified School District with University of California at Merced and the California State University, Fresno. 

Haxton said she had reservations regarding her work, despite enjoying earning about education across the country and working with different groups and organizations. 

“Apparently a college study that I did got quoted on the Senate floor because they were being used to push through dual enrollment policy at the national level,” Haxton said. “But then you can see how research is only used when it helps to prove someone’s point in those kinds of political arenas.”

At PAUSD, Haxton was first hired as program evaluation coordinator, where she conducted research on students learning within the classroom and ran teacher-student focus groups to collect data.

“It was a perfect fit of using the research that I care about and equity and secondary and post-secondary, and then coming back more to a district to … build relationships and see the impact of the work in a place,” Haxton said. “I didn’t want to leave research totally, but it was a great next step for me to come back to a school district.”

According to Haxton, she was hired to focus on equity and identify how to help students by thinking about the bigger picture consistently and systematically. In addition to working on response to intervention [identifying and creating solutions for struggling individuals] for elementary schoolers, Haxton evaluated the merging of the two algebra lanes at Gunn High School, using both data and qualitative feedback from student and teacher focus groups.

“That whole trio is special about our campus, the way that we run and have advisory is obviously special to Palo Alto,” Haxton said. “I am excited to be a part of it, and overseeing this team.”

Outside of the world of education, Haxton loves the outdoors, the beach, hiking, and going on long runs. She spends a lot of time with family as the mother of two young boys, and always has an ongoing reading book.