Nicolas Betancur: From school psychologist to assistant principal


Courtesy Nicolas Betancur

Nicolas Betancur reflects on his switch from school psychologist to assistant principal and his plans for the school year.

Incoming Assistant Principal Nicolas Betancur is preparing for his new role at Los Altos High School the way most students prepare for a test: by studying. 

Betancur is training to take over the Assistant Principal position at Los Altos High School previously held by Suzanne Woolfolk, which includes managing school activities and acting as an adviser to the Associated Student Body. His new role comes with a slew of responsibilities from learning the bylaws of ASB to planning events with Student Community Leaders adviser Sarah Alvarado.

“My goal for this coming school year is really just to understand what the position looks like,” Betancur said. “I’d feel like the year was successful if I was able to replicate everything [Woolfolk] did, write it down, and use the following year to decide what else to do.”

Betancur worked at LAHS as a school psychologist for six years, evaluating students for learning and emotional disabilities. With a background in psychology, sociology and education, he made recommendations to students and their families about special education, individualized education programs and 504 plans. 

“He’s so student-centered, that’s his life,” his former assistant principal Perla Pasallo said. “He’s the kind of guy that sees that you’re down, [and] all of a sudden you get a little present, something to make your day because he really does care and is listening.”

Pasallo now works in the district office as the Director of Student Services and Equity but has known Betancur since he started working at LAHS.  She likes to say that she “stole” him from his previous position at Egan Junior High School.

“I just remember he made such an impression,” Pasallo said. “I was like he’s so young, and god, he’s got it together.”

Betancur collaborated with families, teachers, administrators, and other psychologists to create a welcoming learning environment for struggling students. As a native Spanish speaker, Betancur has worked to connect with the school’s Spanish-speaking community by attending Latino Student Union events and getting to know students apart from his job. These brief interactions with students became one of the major factors in his job change.

“I loved working with students, it was always just very short-lived,” Betancur said. “I’d started to feel like my reach and impact were more limited than I wanted.”

Betancur had wanted to enter school administration for a while — his experience as one of the advisors to the class of 2020 involved him in various student activities and campus culture. When the position opened up, Betancur seized the opportunity to apply. He believes his experience as a school psychologist and educational law background will give him a unique perspective on his administrative duties.

“The experience of working with students who have learning disabilities really helps inform how we go about supporting teachers and families to help them move forward,” Betancur said.

Betancur’s colleague, Director of Special Education Neena Mand, finds that he shines when part of a team and believes his psychology experience will be essential to his future as an assistant principal.

“He’ll make an awesome assistant principal because he’s a people person,” Mand said. “It makes him very relatable to our student population, families and community.”

Mand and Pasallo encourage students to reach out to Betancur and get to know him or say “hi” when he passes on campus.

“He comes across a little bit more reserved, but it has nothing to do with how huge his heart is,” Pasallo said. “He can take it all in and read the room and understand how to care for people.”

Betancur is eager to accept the mantle of assistant principal and meet more students. He hopes to foster a sense of community and school spirit by encouraging student participation in campus activities and providing a professional listening ear.

“It’s a big job,” Betancur said. “The learning curve is going to be extremely steep. I really just wanted to get my feet wet and then go from there.”