For football fans of a certain vintage, the words “Coach Landry” immediately conjure up images of Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, from 1960 to 1988.
But it turns out there’s another Coach Landry — Jeff Landry, a former football coach at College of the Redwoods who late last month was hired as the new principal at South Fork High School effective July 1.
The 41-year-old Landry, who is replacing current South Fork Principal Jim Stewart, has held a number of teaching jobs at different schools in the Northern California region over the past several years — most recently as the language arts teacher at Ft. Bragg Middle School, which is where his wife, Dana Landry, also works as a teacher.
But he’s never been a principal before.
“One of the hardest decisions I’ve made is to leave the classroom,” Landry confided in an interview at South Fork last week after his hiring was announced.
Making the decision easier, at least a little bit, is the fact that Landry is no stranger to South Fork. From August 2006 to June 2008, he served as the school’s varsity track coach and as its junior varsity football coach. He was also a temporary math teacher, an anger management group facilitator and a campus supervisor.
In that last position, he ran an in-school suspension program. “If you got suspended, you got sent to me,” said Landry, who explained that the purpose of the program was to enable suspended students to remain on campus and continue their studies.
“I had a classroom and computers. I’d help the students get caught up with their assignments,” he recalled.
Landry, who will also serve as the principal for Miranda Junior High and the Osprey Learning Center, is anticipating that the small student body will make possible a greater level of involvement with the students than is typically the case for a top administrator.
“The ability to have relationships with the kids and be a principal is not common,” Landry remarked. “Usually the principal plays the role of CEO and the assistant principal works with the kids. With this community you can do both.”
Landry, who will be paid an annual salary of $90,000, is slated to have an assistant principal working under him, although one has not been hired yet.
Landry is a burly sort, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that he played football in high school — as both an offensive and defensive lineman. The location was New Orleans, where he was born and raised — and where early in his career he worked in the city’s storied music industry.
One of the positions he held was as a production manager for a concert promotion company, a job that entailed heading up a seasonal staff of as many as 150 people come Mardi Gras time. While that might sound fun and exciting, “having that level of responsibility to fulfill the vision of my boss” was serious business, Landry indicated.
When asked what his goals were for the South Fork principal’s job, Landry said one aim was “to support the staff as best I can.” Another is to “be a good listener.” A third, which he called his main goal, was “to be a role model for the students.”