By ERIN KIM
This year, UHS welcomes Dr. Frank Tocco (Principal), the new DHH interim principal. He has been working in this position since August and plans to continue for a few more months. Although Tocco will only be at UHS temporarily, he still has much to offer during his term, including his four decades of experience in education and leadership.
As a trained educational psychologist, Tocco did not expect to work in deaf education at first. He said he learned sign language “much like many of the students at University High take sign language on campus here.” During his time at a children’s hospital, he developed a deeper fascination with the unique culture of the deaf community and wanted to further work with DHH youth. Throughout his work in Los Angeles and his graduate and postgraduate work at the University of Southern California, “the deaf and hard of hearing element was always in the back of my mind,” said Tocco.
After teaching and administrating at various schools in the Los Angeles County and Orange County Departments of Education, Tocco eventually retired, and was asked to oversee the deaf program at UHS. Being an educator is a “satisfying and rewarding profession,” according to Tocco, “and it’s exemplified by my coming here. I have felt so welcomed here that I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed the excitement of a school environment.” He is especially appreciative of this opportunity to revisit education as he works alongside some of his former students who are now teachers and staff at UHS, including Mr. Ryan Itchon (Counselor).
Alongside his job at UHS, Tocco also teaches at California State University Long Beach in educational psychology and child development in order to “keep abreast with the many changes in our culture.”
As Tocco is expected to be at UHS for only a few more months, he does not plan to make any major changes in the DHH program. He remains, however, determined to help the staff “continue to develop expertise in the field of deaf education and to help students be the best that they can be.”
Tocco claims the deaf community “truly is a culture. University High School has a culture, and to merge the two cultures as best as possible would be my motivation.”
On his education philosophy, Tocco believes that “it’s a process whose goal is to help our students become positive, independent citizens that can contribute to the community we live in.”
Although Tocco is clearly dedicated to his work, he does not forget to make time for himself. “I try to enjoy life. I really do,” said Tocco. Because he has family located all over the country and overseas, he finds himself making frequent trips to New York and Italy, where he relaxes in a small beach town and enjoys homemade Italian dishes. In addition, he is passionate about giving back to his community. He is an active participant in service projects throughout the state, a contributor to the L.A. Music Hall and Hollywood Bowl and an avid runner.
“I appreciate the opportunity and welcomeness presented to me by my colleagues at the Orange County Department of Education and at University High School, Venado Middle School and Orange Coast College,” said Tocco.