Uni’s John Pehrson selected as inaugural principal of Portola High School


Irvine’s next comprehensive high school had a location, an attendance area and a stunning architectural design. And now it’s added another critical piece – a principal.

IMG_8073John Pehrson, who has led University High School for nearly ten years, has been selected to take the reins as the inaugural principal of Portola High School, which is on track to open in August 2016.

Pehrson, highly regarded for his role in shaping the academic powerhouse that is Uni, will begin his new assignment this summer. He will spend the next 18 months working on a monumental task list that includes completing construction, identifying a leadership team, engaging local stakeholders, hiring teachers and support staff, establishing the curriculum and designing a master schedule.

“For over a decade, John Pehrson has been a committed and visionary leader. There is no doubt that his experience, passion and dedication will be tremendous assets to the students, staff and community of Portola High School,” Superintendent Terry Walker said.  “Opening a new high school is a tremendous endeavor, so we feel extremely fortunate to have an educational leader of John’s caliber willing to accept this honor and challenge.”

Pehrson was appointed as the principal of Uni in 2005 after serving ten years in the Capistrano Valley Unified School District. In Capo, he served as a high school assistant principal and activities director and was part of the original team that opened Tesoro High School in 2001.

Prior to joining the administrative ranks, Pehrson taught physics and chemistry in the Whittier Union High School District, where he also coached basketball and volleyball.  He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Whittier College and a master’s degree in administration from Cal State Fullerton.

“It is a true honor to be selected as the principal of Portola High School,” said Pehrson.  “I have heard great things about the community and am already excited to begin working with everyone to build another incredible Irvine school.”

“The design of the school is amazing, but I know that the educational program and the people that will fill the classrooms and hallways are what will make it the top rate school that it is destined to be.  As we begin to assemble our leadership team this spring, I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders with a sense of deep responsibility, passion, forethought and, of course, Portola Pride.”

During John’s ten year tenure, Uni has consistently been recognized as one of the top high schools by publications including Newsweek, the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and the Orange County Register. The school also received a six-year clear accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges at its last review.

A strong proponent of ethics and integrity, Pehrson was selected by the Orange County Athletic Directors Association to receive the Champion of Character award.  He has also served as both president and representative to the Pacific Coast League.

John has been married to his wife, Becky, for 24 years. The couple has three children – Christa, Micah and Zach – who he credits with helping him sustain a focus on what’s important to students and their families.

Pehrson will continue to serve as principal at Uni through the 2014-15 school year, with a successor expected to be named by June.  Anticipating a large and highly qualified candidate pool, district officials are already planning processes to gather input from the Uni staff and community detailing the professional and personal traits they would like to see in their new leader.

Located on Irvine Boulevard just south of Sand Canyon Avenue, Portola High is already beginning to take shape. In October, IUSD and its partners staged a groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus, which will open its doors as the district’s fifth comprehensive high school.