New Assistant Principal is Full of Bulldog PRIDE for his New Job

Portola High is a campus of leaders. From student advocates to teachers who start initiatives for better educational opportunities, every corner of campus has something special to offer. For new assistant principal James Coney, being able to manage multiple departments on campus allows him to connect with many of these leaders. 

Coney began his new position on Aug. 23, after transferring from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he initially worked as a physical education teacher. He later became a dean of discipline and eventually an assistant principal. 

After 22 years in LAUSD, Coney’s decision to start working at Portola High primarily stemmed from its close knit community and positive atmosphere. 

“What I noticed here was that the staff were very engaging,” Coney said. “They would smile, nod their heads; I just got this sense of trust, and it was a family type of atmosphere. I’d actually been offered a position at a different school, but I talked to my family about the whole experience and said, ‘This is the place for me.’”

In comparison to Coney’s previous experiences in administration, IUSD operates on a much smaller scale, according to Coney. Going from the second largest school district in the country to IUSD marked a monumental shift in scale for Coney — one he welcomed with open arms. 

I haven’t said this in a long time, but when I wake up, I’m happy to go to work. I’m excited to come here even though I have a lot of things to do; everyone is considered a learner here, whether a student, a teacher or a parent, so all those things are happening in real time, and I love being a part of it.”

— James Coney

Over the years, his passions for education and administration have never wavered, as he can now connect his job to the Bulldog PRIDE values.

“Right now, my favorite part of the job is just getting to know everybody and building those relationships,” Coney said. “We have the whole PRIDE thing, and the biggest one for me is empathy: understanding who people are and meeting new students and teachers.”

Coney’s journey as an administrator started during his time at California State University, Long Beach, where he pursued kinesiology in hopes of becoming a physical education teacher. While Coney has overseen a multitude of academic disciplines over his years in education, he will always hold the athletics department in a special place of his heart.

“A lot of the time, physical education is undervalued in a lot of districts, but I tell people that if you don’t take care of yourself or learn to be fit and eat well, it’s very difficult to do a lot of things if you are sick, and you can’t enjoy life,” Coney said. “I value physical education as much as all the other subjects.”

Coney will oversee the physical education department along with the social studies department. He will also oversee areas on campus such as nutrition services, teacher observations, student teachers, Saturday school and work experience. 

Coney’s job also entails planning two crucial year-end events: 8th Grade Family Night and the Bulldog Excellence Awards.

“It’s a whirlwind—it’s exhausting in a good way,” Coney said. “I haven’t said this in a long time, but when I wake up, I’m happy to go to work. I’m excited to come here even though I have a lot of things to do; everyone is considered a learner here, whether a student, a teacher or a parent, so all those things are happening in real time, and I love being a part of it.”