David Jaffe returns to Carmel Valley as Torrey Pines High School principal

By Kristina Houck

As a child, David Jaffe was a fan of Torrey Pines High School’s football team. Now, he’s head of the Carmel Valley school.

“Torrey Pines has always been a flagship school in San Diego, the state and the nation, so the opportunity to actually lead this school is just outstanding,” said Jaffe, the new principal at Torrey Pines High School.

Although Jaffe began his first year as principal on Aug. 27, he’s not new to the San Dieguito Union High School District. The San Diego native has been in education for 20 years, 18 of which have been with the district.

Jaffe started in the district in 1993 as a history teacher, then an assistant principal at Diegueno Middle School. After a brief stint as assistant principal of La Costa Canyon High School, Jaffe opened Canyon Crest Academy as the founding principal in 2004 and later left to serve as executive director of curriculum and assessment at the district office in 2007. He led Chabad Hebrew Academy, a private Jewish day school in Scripps Ranch, for the last two years.

“I’m a public school person; that’s what it comes down to,” said Jaffe, who replaced former principal Brett Killeen after he left the district to become assistant superintendent of human relations at the Vista Unified School District. Jaffe is the ninth principal of Torrey Pines High School since the campus opened in 1974.

“I was born and raised in public schools myself. I had amazing opportunities in the San Dieguito Union High School District, and I’m thrilled to be back here in this principalship,” Jaffe said.

Although he heads a campus with nearly 2,800 students and more than 150 teachers, Jaffe describes his leadership style as focusing on building engaging connections with his students and his staff.

“The vision for any large high school, at least the high school I run, is to be connected with our students and each other,” Jaffe said. “Doctors and scientists, they move forward in their professions and advance their technologies based on collaboration. They don’t do it in isolation, in a bubble. I think we need to do the same.

“It’s very easy to go and just isolate yourself, but the only way to move forward as an organization is to do it collectively, as a team.”

A Patrick Henry High School alum, Jaffe earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UCLA and considered going into law. After working a couple of summers in a law office, as a campus supervisor at his former middle school and as a volunteer at a transitional housing program for former foster and probation youth, Jaffe decided he wanted to work with children.

He transitioned to administration to make an even greater impact.

“I enjoyed the thought of being able to positively impact a whole school,” he said. “I found out I had the skills to be able to be a leader.”

Along with all public schools in California, Torrey Pines High School will make the transition to the Common Core State Standards in the 2014-15 school year, which Jaffe will oversee.

“The nice thing about being executive director of curriculum and assessment at the district for four years is I know from a district level what we worked on and what the school sites are implementing,” said Jaffe, who has been married for 16 years and has two daughters in first and fourth grades. “I was part of the original conversations.”

While making the transition to the Common Core State Standards is one of his main goals, Jaffe also wants to continue the culture of excellence that is embedded in the school, which U.S. News and World Report ranked 25th in the state and one of the top in the nation. He also wants to continue to ensure the school meets the individual needs of all students and prepares them for life after graduation.

“Having the honor of being principal of a school that’s been part of this community for 40 years, I don’t take lightly,” Jaffe said. “My job and my administration team’s job is to make this environment one that kids want to come to, parents want to send their kids to and teachers want to teach at. The school already has that environment, so I don’t have to make massive changes. It’s really the staff coming together and moving forward and continuing to make curriculum relevant for the kids.”