New Principal Robert Pambello Leads ODLHÁ during First Year Back in Person

Robert Pambello Blog

Leading a school can be a challenging task, but reopening a school for in-person instruction as a new principal is one to remember. 

This past fall, veteran educator Robert Pambello took the helm and helped Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood reopen for full, in-person instruction. Pambello—who has served as a teacher, principal, and director for several educational institutions over the last two decades—arrived at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo with fresh enthusiasm, seasoned leadership, and expansive goals.  

In considering his goals, Pambello wants to maintain Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo’s unique position as the “pride in the heights,” which is the mantra of this top-performing high school in California and the nation.

Pambello joined the Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo family as principal in August of 2021 as the successor to Xochitl Avellan, the former principal of Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo and a current area superintendent for Green Dot Public Schools California. “I am very proud to have Mr. Pambello as the Principal at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo,” Avellan said. “ He is invested in the Green Dot mission that prepares all students for college, leadership, and life, and committed to serving our students, families, teachers, and stakeholders in our community.” 

Now, nearly two semesters later, Pambello feels more prepared than ever to continue the legacy of leadership at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo. Susan Kim, Assistant Principal at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo, is proud to work with Pambello, and is looking forward to the great things they will accomplish as a school leadership team. “Robert has worked very hard to serve Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo and the community.” she said. “There is a learning curve at times when one is new to an organization and school, but Robert has seamlessly woven himself into this community and sincerely loves the students, parents and staff that we work with.” 

We sat down with Pambello to discuss his experience as principal, the philosophy behind his leadership style, and what our families can expect over the next few academic years. 

Q: What was it like to reopen a school for in-person instruction during your first year as principal? 

A: Opening a school was the joy factor of students coming back—the fact that students were going to now have their real life happen again. When I was the principal at my last school during the pandemic, we opened in March of the year before and we brought back students and they were zombies. They were not interacting with each other. They wanted to be by themselves. And now, to see the joy of being with their peers, seeing the joy of learning, that just made me feel amazing. They need to have these interactions. 

What is your five-year plan at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo? What would you like to see change at the school under your leadership? 

I want to continue the work we’re doing with student work analysis because student work analysis leads to better scholar outcomes and better scores. It incorporates reteaching and having that keen eye on what is the gap in student learning. 

Through next year, I want all of my teachers to perfect this. Next year I'm going to move into a tracking system of tracking the initial teaching and reteaching for exit tickets at the school;  I'm going to build upon things over a five-year period. 

I also want to continue to be “the pride in the heights.” I have been working and collaborating with different groups to provide lots more opportunity for bringing in more electives, and bringing in community college into the school day where students can take dual credit classes.

I also have an outside organization in San Pedro where my 10th graders in biology have taken a whole course first semester with USC doctoral students. 

Another thing that I have on my radar is adding to the highest level math class that we offer, which is currently statistics.This summer, we're partnering with the Jaime Escalante Math Program to offer three additional math classes, so that we could bolster our trajectory to get to AP calculus. 

How do you plan to strengthen Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo’s partnership with Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School? 

I have a partnership with the principal, and  we're always in correspondence with everything. I've visited the middle schools and I've already met with all the eighth graders three or four times now.  Right now, we're trying to align their STEM program and the programs that they have going on at their school to match what we have here at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo so that Ánimo Ellen Ochoa students will see that there’s a seamless transition between middle school and high school.