Principal Dan Andrus Ready For Atascadero
ATASCADERO — Atascadero Unified School District announced the hiring of new Atascadero High School Principal Dan Andrus in late February, following the news that former Principal Bill Neeley was retiring after the 2019-2020 school year.
With the Aug. 12 start date for the 2020-21 school year creeping ever closer, Andrus is fully underway in his first year and excited to return to the county that raised him. Atascadero’s new principal is no stranger to the area. Growing up and graduating from San Luis Obispo High School, he is through and through a Central Coast kid at heart.
“I grew up in San Luis County, and here you really grow up in the whole county,” Andrus told The Atascadero News. “You go to the fair in Paso; you learn to water ski at Nacimiento, you learn to surf out in Morro Bay. So, the whole county feels like home to me.”
As an educator of more than 20 years, he follows the family business, and the path laid before him by his father, who taught at San Luis Obispo High before finishing his career with 21 years as San Luis Obispo Junior High School principal.
While Andrus is coming from a high school in Southern California, Vasquez High School in Acton, he is no stranger to the educational climate in SLO County. He started his teaching career in the mid-1990s in Paso Robles before eventually serving as Morro Bay High’s principal for more than five years from 2009 to 2014. After five years of a faster-paced life, Andrus was ready to return home.
“I had been looking for a couple of years for an opportunity to come back to this area,” Andrus said. “I applied down in Santa Maria, and when this opportunity opened up, it was awesome; it was an opportunity to come back and get back into the county.”
Entering his first year as AHS principal, Andrus is invested in becoming part of the local community he will now serve, which is what made the job so alluring in the first place.
“I know that Atascadero is a community school, and there is something unique about a school that really is a central part of the community,” he said. “I am coming into a school that is turning 100 this year, where you have four and five generations that have all come through Atascadero High School. The community rallies around the school, and there is something unique about being at Atascadero because the traditions and the support for the school runs very deep. As a school leader, that is a real asset.”
One of the constants throughout Andrus’ career in education is his ability to create and implement programs. While at Lewis Middle School in Paso Robles, he designed a Spanish program. While in Morro Bay, he helped implement programs like AVID and STEM. However, as his tenure is just in its infancy, he must first acclimate himself to the school and its challenges before making decisions of that magnitude.
“The first thing that I want to do is really get to know and understand Atascadero High School and the Atascadero community,” he said. “I would have to be super conceited to think that I know what is best for Atascadero before living here and working here and really starting to absorb what is happening here. Now, there are some things that are just good education. I have mapped out some things, but first, I want to see where we are, and then we want to really look at how do we make sure the instruction we are giving is going to maximize learning.”
One thing Andrus was adamant about was working with the Associated Student Body students and hearing their thoughts on what the school needs. Following talks with the student body leaders, both parties landed on the same conclusion, strengthening the school culture back to the days of old.
“When I talked to the ASB students, they focused on finding a way to pump up the school’s spirit, culture again,” he said. “They needed more happening for this to feel like that community school that their parents talk about. So the one thing that me and the ASB students will be working on together is to really bring that hometown, we are a family, we are Atascadero High School culture, and I think it’s exciting right now because it is our 100th anniversary. We are really going to be reaching out to the whole community to celebrate the 100th anniversary as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted.”
Andrus will have to wait a bit before earning his orange stripes in the community as AUSD trustees voted unanimously to open school on Aug. 12 with full distance learning.