When Tony Newman graduated from in 1989, he didn’t have specific plans to return. But he did. In 2006. As principal of his alma mater.
Newman, 40, is in his sixth year as top administrator at the school. He oversees a staff of 110, including 78 teachers. On top of that, there is the student population of 1,850 in grades ninth through 12th.
"When I came back, I had this vision of this kid in shorts and a tank top,” he said. “The last time I had been at Ramona High School was as a student. Then I walk back in wearing a suit and being the principal.”
Newman initially interviewed for a position on the RHS staff after graduating from Brigham Young University in Utah, but was turned down. Instead, he was hired for where he taught history for five years.
“My room was next door to Gene Doxey’s,” he said. Newman reminisced about one of his OPMS teachers. “He stopped me one day and said, ‘Tony, you’ve got to call me Gene. Stop calling me Mr. Doxey.’”
Doxey was a longtime teacher at Olive Peirce and is now retired. He was one of the people who made a lasting impression on Newman when he was a student.
“I had him as an eighth-grade student,” Doxey said. “It’s so neat to come here (to the high school) and see all the accomplishments he’s made.”
Other teachers who impressed the young Newman were at and RHS basketball coach .
It was while attending BYU that Newman decided to go into teaching. He took an aptitude test there. Education was not at the top of the list; he scored highest in truck driving. But a counselor told him to think about people in his life he admired and who had influenced him.
Newman started a list and soon realized it was his teachers he most admired. He knew then that teaching was what he wanted to do with his life.
Since taking over the helm at RHS, Newman has seen bestowed on the school, including being named one of seven California Distinguished High Schools which also won awards for their career program in the 2010-2011 year.
“To be one of only seven schools in the entire state … it’s a source of pride for us,” he said. “We’ve become a school focused on students learning. That’s what we’re all about.”
Newman sees to it that the school's focus is integrating the latest technology into the curriculum and having students make the most of their education to be college-ready by the time they graduate.
“What we hope to accomplish is that every kid that’s here four years with us, that when they leave here, they have those skills and foundations,” Newman said. “We want every kid to learn to be the best of their ability so when they leave us, they will succeed in whatever endeavor they choose to go into.”
Newman isn’t the only one at RHS who chose teaching and returned to his alma mater. There are several other teachers on the staff who are RHS alumni: John Swafford, Mike Jordan, Robert Grace, Steve Koch, Becky Ayers, Rose Darrough, Ruth Pluciennik and Cori McDonald, among others.
Newman’s family moved to Ramona when he was 7. His parents opened K-D’s Doughnuts shop. His brother, Robert, and sister, Nanette, also graduated from Ramona High.
It was during Newman’s college years in Utah that he met his future wife, Christie. They have four children, all attending Ramona schools: Jacob, 13; Derek, 10; Cari, 7; and Chase, 5.
“Cari’s my favorite,” Newman bragged. “My boys know it. She’s where it’s at, as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad to be able to raise them in Ramona. It’s a great place to live.”