Outgoing fifth-grade students weren’t the only ones who said, “goodbye” to Hazel Fischer Elementary School (HFE) at a promotion ceremony in front of White Pines Lake on June 3.
Principal Brett Loring also bid farewell to the school where he has served for eight of the past 12 years.
“Brett is an extremely kind and student-oriented school administrator who is universally liked,” Vallecito Union School District Superintendent Jim Frost said. “He is not leaving our district, but has accepted a new role as testing coordinator, coordinator of the English Language Learner (ELL) program, in charge of developing the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and using his Spanish speaking skills will offer a Spanish class at Avery Middle School. This is a very essential position for our district and one where Brett’s skills will be a real asset.”
With the move to distance learning this year, Loring hadn’t had the opportunity to say goodbye to many of his former students and their families. To remedy this, the Hazel Fischer Parents Club, HFE staff members and other volunteers put on a surprise parade for the outgoing administrator.
“When we were forced into distance learning, nobody really got the chance to say, ‘goodbye,’” Hazel Fischer Parents Club President Kim Griffiths said. “The parent’s club felt a responsibility – for our own personal reasons, but also for our kids and our community – to pay tribute to him.”
Griffiths said that Loring has become an important part of the school and the wider community over the years.
“Our kids just genuinely adore him,” she said. “He’s always been very kind and very gentle. You always would see him on the playground. You would see him walking around and high-fiving the kids, and he just adores them.”
Following the promotion ceremony, vehicles decorated with balloons and handmade signs began to roll though the parking lot. Former students poked their heads from sunroofs and hung out of windows, waving signs and cheering. The cars each paused for a moment in front of Loring, and smiles and laughter mingled with tears.
Loring grew up in San Jose, but spent his youth vacationing at a family cabin in Rail Road Flat.
“We would come up and spend weekends on about 10 acres – exploring, and going to the river, and we enjoyed that for a long time as little kids,” he said.
In high school, Loring moved with his family to Columbia. Following graduation from Sonora High School, he attended Columbia College and took a job as a camp counselor at Foothill Horizons during the summers.
“I led campfires, did goofy things, and found, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really cool,’” he said. “I was performing for kids, but teaching some stuff on the side, leading some games, singing silly campfire songs, and just being with the kids was kind of charging me up.”
Afterwards, Loring interned as a naturalist at Foothill Horizons, which led him to a job as program director and head naturalist for the Mission Springs outdoor education center in Scotts Valley. He married his wife, Jimalene, and the two moved to the Sacramento area, where Loring found a job as a community instructor, working with adults with dev-elopmental disabilities.
“At that time, I had people in my life that kept saying, ‘Brett, everything that you’re doing is teaching. Why don’t you just go to school and get your credential,’” he said. “So, I started going to school at night to become a teacher.”
Loring landed a job teaching Spanish at Del Oro High School in Loomis while still completing his teaching credential, a position he held for the next six years. While he enjoyed the job, he developed an interest in administration, and decided to attend an administrators’ academy. After working at W.E. Mitchell Middle School in Rancho Cordova as vice principal, Loring became principal of nearby Cordova Villa Elementary School.
“I felt like I fit right in, and it was amazing,” he said. “And that was me landing in the niche of elementary school administration from then on out.”
Loring served as principal for several other schools in the Sacramento area over the next few years. In 2004, he and his wife purchased a cabin in Arnold and began vacationing in the area. A few years later, Loring decided to apply for an open principal position at HFE.
“Here’s a school by a lake, in a small community with great people,” he said. “I knew a lot of them already from coming up on weekends. My own nephew and nieces were attending there, and so I applied.”
Loring was offered the job, moved with his family to the mountains, and began at HFE midway through the 2007-2008 school year. Though he served as a “hybrid” principal between HFE and Albert Michelson Elementary School (AME) in Murphys during the 2011-2012 school year, and as full-time principal at AME between the 2012-2013 and 2016-2017 school years, the rest of Loring’s time was spent at HFE.
“It’s been good,” Loring said. “I’ve really gotten a lot of experience in this district, which I’m very thankful for.”
Loring said that HFE’s small size made it easier to get to know all of the students and their families.
“It’s wonderful to know everyone by name – even the siblings, the moms and dads, the grandparents,” he said. “That’s how it’s been at Hazel Fischer for me. I’ve really been able to build an affinity with the parents and the families there.”
The transition to distance learning was difficult for everyone, especially parents, Loring said.
“It was really hard,” he said. “And extra hard for me was feeling like I’m not going to get closure with this group of kids, this group of staff, because we’re not going to come together before the end of the school year.”
Loring said that the parade helped to give him the closure that he needed.
“Being able to talk to kids and their parents – even at their car window – was amazing,” he said. “That was an amazing way to just affirm the connection that we’ve had, and for me to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to see you around. I’m not going away. I’ll still be around and see you in the community.’”