There’s a New Assistant Principal in Town



Assistant Principal Maria “Cris” Phillips is responsible for the master schedule.

By Sharmie Azurel

Former Title III  Instructional Coach Ms. Maria “Cris” Phillips is ready to assume her new role as Assistant Principal of Van Nuys. Taking on Ms. Phyllis Baer’s position, Ms. Phillips will be responsible for creating a master schedule ensuring that all students at the school fulfill their graduation requirements through their classes.   

As one of the previous members of the English Learners team at Van Nuys High School, Ms. Phillips was a familiar face for students visiting the bilingual office, many of whom had just enrolled in school in the United States and couldn’t speak English.

Accommodating students from Peru, Uzbekistan, Guatemala, Argentina, Bangladesh and many more countries, she explains that each of the many flags in the bilingual office represent a student’s mother country. With her assistance, those students were integrated into a comprehensive learning program to help them better adapt to their new home.

Sharing a similar background as her former students, Ms. Phillips grew up in the Philippines immersed in a different culture. She immigrated to the United States as a child and studied in Austin, Texas for elementary school briefly before returning to the Philippines to complete elementary and high school.  Ms. Phillips later attend college and pursue a career in education. Although faced with initial culture shock, she was able to adapt and realize her appreciation for her international background.

Before coming to Van Nuys High School as the instructional coach six years ago, Ms. Phillips worked as an English Teacher at Washington Preparatory High School in the inner city of Los Angeles for almost a decade, where she was primarily responsible for the Social Justice Center Small Learning Community. She also informed students about many college opportunities.

“I knew that I had come to work somewhere that was different from where I worked at before,” she said about the transition. With three magnet programs, an automotive tech academy and various extra-curricular activities, she says that it was interesting to suddenly work at a school with so many moving parts.

“Whenever I had a question, I knew who to ask,” said Ms. Phillips. “I knew who all the players are and everybody works as a team. Everybody helps everybody learn something.”

Due to her extensive qualifications, last year she was asked to teach the pilot year of the AP Capstone program, a course that develops student research skills.

Her next challenge is even bigger as she assumes the role of an Assistant Principal for one of the largest high schools in LAUSD, a big job that comes with extensive responsibility. But Ms. Phillips remains up to the challenge.

“This school isn’t perfect, but it has such a great community that even with its large population of students, everything works for the benefit of all the students that attend it,” she said.

Aside from the variety of programs Van Nuys High School offers, Ms. Phillips takes pride in  the different cultural backgrounds of the students at the school and their appreciation for diversity.

“I have not seen any other school with such an international diversity like Van Nuys High School,” she said. “I come to school every day inspired because this is where I feel most at home.”