Alicia Payton-Miyazaki to be new Oak Knoll School principal

by Parke Treadway on April 28, 2021

Menlo Park City School District Superintendent Erik Burmeister will recommend Alicia Payton-Miyazaki as the next principal of Oak Knoll School for approval by the MPCSD School Board on May 13, 2021. Alicia currently serves as Oak Knoll’s Assistant Principal.

MPCSD conducted a comprehensive and competitive process interviewing candidates from inside and outside the district for this role. Alicia stood out because of her experience as a teacher, instructional coach, and current Oak Knoll assistant principal along with her deep knowledge of MPCSD, having previously worked at all five school sites and the district office.

“Alicia showed herself to be an able communicator, a passionate visionary, and an eager learner throughout the process,” says Superintendent Burmeister. “She is also the first person of color, to our knowledge, to be selected as an MPCSD principal and will bring the perspective of growing up with two backgrounds—Japanese and American—to her leadership role in MPCSD’s increasingly diverse student community.”

Becoming principal of Oak Knoll is a “momentous” step, says Alicia, who attended Oak Knoll as a student in the 1980s and then Hillview Middle School. She moved to New York, earning a biology degree from Vassar College, and returned to California to do HIV research at Stanford Medical Center.

That research role, Alicia recalls, set her on a path that defines her and her leadership ethic today. “That research work was helping vulnerable people right when they needed it most. Looking where help is needed and providing that help is so meaningful. I believe in doing the right things at the right moment, and that is what we strive for as school leaders in MPCSD.”

Providing help and increasing equity has always been a focus for Alicia. As a 14-year-old high school student, she started a small non-profit making science kits for students in inner city schools because she realized without access to advanced science experiences, some students lacked the leverage needed to succeed in higher level high school courses. Fostering equity has been a focus of hers since she returned to MPCSD as a Hillview science teacher in 2001 and continuing into her current work at Oak Knoll. “Inequitable access and outcomes in STEM fields have lifelong implications for students, and my depth of knowledge in both of these areas is what we need at this moment,” Alicia says.

Alicia says she hopes to spend next year “pod busting.” “The pods we have formed to keep ourselves safe during the pandemic have also tended to reinforce our existing relationships. I want us to have authentic conversations with people who have different experiences than ourselves. Our diversity really does make us stronger.”

Alicia will begin her role in August 2021. Current principal Kristen Gracia will move to the district office as the new Assistant Superintendent of Talent and Technology. MPCSD will conduct a search for the next Assistant Principal of Oak Knoll School.

Photo courtesy of MPCSD showing,  left to right, incoming Oak Knoll principal Alicia Payton-Miyazaki, outgoing Oak Knoll principal Kristen Gracia and former Oak Knoll principal David Ackerman

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