Tracey Runeare is redefining leadership at Los Altos


Ashley Tumacder

Incoming LAHS principal Tracey Runeare debuted at Monday’s board meeting and shared her excitement to take on the role.

What’s the first thing incoming Los Altos High School principal Tracey Runeare wants to do when she gets here? Ask questions.

After working as a principal for her most recent school Harbor High School in Santa Cruz since 2016, Runeare says that although she may have the qualifications for the role, she doesn’t want to assume anything about the school. Instead, by working together with the students and staff, she hopes to build a collaborative relationship with LAHS. 

“I want to create opportunities for people to work with me to make any changes that that the community feels should happen, you know, it’s not just [what] I want to achieve as myself coming in as the principal,” Runeare said. 

Despite her palpable enthusiasm as a teacher and principal, coupled with nearly four schools worth of experience under her belt, Runeare confessed that she did not find her passion as an educator until she attended college at San Jose State University (SJSU). 

“Once I started in college, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll take sociology or psychology,’ but I wasn’t sure still exactly what I wanted to do,” Runeare said. 

She explained that the directional change toward education was largely due to her father’s career as a teacher for over 30 years. Runeare also stated that her plan initially was to teach at elementary schools, working with younger children. 

“And I started taking elementary education classes and realized that elementary was not going to be the right fit for me,” Runeare said. “I wanted to work with teenagers in high school.”

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences and a Master of Arts in Education from SJSU, Runeare worked at several high schools, notably Silver Creek High School, Aptos High School, Watsonville High School and Harbor High School. 

Runeare’s favorite class to teach was the one she created herself at Aptos High School, which was about the history of women in the United States.

“It was just great fun to teach history specifically through women’s history, as opposed to learning the traditional content taught in a history class,” Runeare said. “I loved it.”

 In addition to the introduction of unique courses, Runeare also helped to foster further diversity through more inclusive programs. 

Like LAHS, Runeare’s previous high schools also have a significant demographic of English-Spanish learners. To provide meaningful education for all students, Runeare helped facilitate specialized international programs to keep students on track for graduation and give them personalized support in English learning. 

“Her work with all types of students may have been what made her stand out from the rest of the applicants,” MVLA Superintendent Nellie Meyer said. 

With her experience and dedication in stride, Runeare strives to create a school environment where all students can feel included, regardless of language barriers.

“It’s important to give teachers the right tools they need to teach students who are learning English, and see where our students are at to help them feel part of the culture at school,” Runeare said. “It’s hard work for students. And it’s also hard work for teachers.”

Amidst her busy schedules and responsibilities as principal, Runeare also enjoys exercising such as Crossfit and spending time with her family.

“I love to take hikes in the mountains and get together with my family,” Runeare said. “I have a large, extended family, so we have a lot of dinners and enjoy each other’s presence.” 

On a more personal level, Runeare characterized herself as a good listener and a nice person — she comes across as excited and willing to adapt to the community surrounding her. Not only does she care about the school, but she is eager to meet the students and get to know them as individuals, and to create an environment that everyone can feel comfortable in. 

“I’m student-centered, and the decisions that I make are always in the best interests of students,” Runeare said. “Even if people disagreed with me, I think they would say that.”