Sayonara

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Sayonara

Alice Antony and Alejandro Paredes

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Following his 24-year-long journey split between the Petaluma City Schools District (PCSD) and Saint Vincent De Paul High School, current Principal Eric Backman is leaving California, pursuing a new life and opportunities provided by Anchorage, Alaska. As the new Principal of Jane Mears Middle School, Backman will be taking on Anchorage School District, harboring innumerable immersion schools. Myriad factors affected Backman’s decision to leave PCSD and California, with one vital piece of advice he constantly echoes to his students as his driving force: “I always encourage them [the students] to do the thing that makes them happy; to do the thing that is most fulfilling to them; to really try to have faith in that,” shared Backman.

After 14 years in the district — four as a teacher, six as vice principal, and these last four as head principal — Backman shares the forefront reasoning for his large lateral move upwards to Alaska.

I realized some time, many months ago, that we — my partner and I — had to be together. It makes the most sense for the two of us for me to go there, and with that decision came the choice to apply for work up in Alaska in Anchorage.”

— Eric Backman

“The truth is, I have been in a very loving, long-distance relationship for over a year, and it’s impossible for me to imagine going another year or longer with all of the travel and complications surrounding communication,” said Backman. “I realized some time, many months ago, that we — my partner and I — had to be together. It makes the most sense for the two of us for me to go there, and with that decision came the choice to apply for work up in Alaska in Anchorage.”

Although leaving an extremely diverse community, Backman has managed to somehow find an even more colorful community than that of Casa: ASD fosters the representation of more than 100 languages — Jane Mears Middle School harboring the Japanese Immersion Program. Backman explains the new school and district’s linguistic diversity, as well as future pending his involvement.

Although sad to leave his school, Backman remains optimistic and opportunistic, warding off apprehension, for there are many moments and memories to pocket, and a plethora of projects and programs he will have left behind.

“I loved teaching in the Social Studies Department…I started the same year as Ms. Brackett. We came in and immediately loved being part of the department which is really, really dynamic…When I came to Casa it was like a whole new world opened up for me in terms of the diversity of the student body, college prep readiness, and what great teaching could look like. So for me, the first couple of years here were just an incredible period of professional growth, which I will always remember,” shared Backman. “In terms of my administrative career, I’m really very proud of the work that we did in the early years with the Small Learning Community Grant. So now, cohorts of kids within the large student body can take classes together and have the same teachers,” said Backman.  

Having started here as a Social Studies teacher alongside Backman, Kiri Brackett  — longtime friend and colleague — shares fond memories made with Backman during his time here.

“He and I actually shared a classroom his first year here and it was such a great experience because he is an inspirational teacher. He’d just light up the classroom. And from there, he took that and was able to light up the entire school and create such a positive impact in the classroom,” shared Brackett.

Venturing forward, Backman leaves behind a rich legacy here in the Petaluma City School District, taking with him fond memories and an ability to invariably change Jane Mears Middle School, who have no idea the gift they are about to receive.

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