When Pat Talbot announced she would retire from Pescadero Middle and High School following the 2018-19 academic year, successor Kevin Allen asked if she wanted to have a school assembly. But Talbot didn’t want the focus to be on her.
“What Pat instilled in me is that every decision that’s to be made at the school has to answer the question, ‘What’s best for the kids?’” Allen said. “... Everything she did was about the kids.”
After working in the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District for 33 years as a teacher and a principal at Pescadero Elementary as well as Pescadero Middle and High School, Talbot is enjoying her home and looking forward to her daughter’s wedding, traveling, and gardening.
“I absolutely love going along the ocean and turning into town and knowing I’m home,” she said.
During Talbot’s time as principal, she implemented restorative justice practices that help students understand what they did wrong, how it negatively affects those around them and how they can make things right again. She and Allen say this shift in policy has helped Pescadero High School’s suspension rates drop from about 25 percent to less than 5 percent most years.
“Pat was the expert at counseling students,” Allen said. “She was a natural at putting students at ease and instructing them in the right ways of behavior without seeming to come down too hard on them. She was definitely a teacher and nurturer, a caretaker, and she believed that you build students up.”
Allen taught English and history at Pescadero High. When he first came for his interview in 2014, he drove along Pescadero Creek Road toward the school and saw a sign that said, “Farm Sale.”
“That really caught my eye because, where I’m from, I’m used to garage sales,” Allen said. He met Talbot in the office that is now his own and looked out the large window overlooking hills and farmland.
“I just knew I had to work there,” Allen said.
Talbot mentored Allen and encouraged him to get his administrative credential, and Allen hopes to continue her legacy and implement some ideas of his own.
One of these ideas focuses on building connections with students and their families.
“Sometimes, if you live in a far-flung place, it can be tough to get here,” Allen said. “Last year, we had a ton of rain, and sometimes the roads flood and buses have to reroute, and it’s tough. But we’re like a safe harbor school in that we never close. We’re a safe place for the community.”
He also wants to provide hands-on learning experiences for students that make use of the surrounding geography, whether that’s creating a surfing team or offering school credit for doing fieldwork in the creek.
“This place is a gem,” Allen said. “It’s a real jewel, and the more we can tap into it, and have the kids understand that it has a lot to offer in many, many aspects, I think they’ll be more and more proud and happy to have been a part of this community.”