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OJHS Rams Welcome Medlin As Principal
Catherine Medlin is all smiles as she settles in across the hall from her former office space. Medlin was recently named principal of Oakdale Junior High, stepping up from the vice principal post she previously held. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Catherine Medlin is no different than most public school educators; she’s happy to be back on campus, is happy to be once again among the students and is tremendously proud of the Oakdale Junior High staff.

Returning to campus full time for the 2021-22 school year, is something she was elated about and while in many ways the former OJHS vice principal would have been content with just, things have gotten a bit more exciting for the 23-year veteran of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District.

In November, Medlin was officially announced as the newly appointed principal of Oakdale Junior High.

“I was going into my seventh year this year this year,” she said of her time spent as the campus vice principal.

Medlin began her career in education 27 years ago, joining OJUSD 23 years ago at the Fair Oaks campus and then Sierra View, where she taught both fourth and fifth grades.

“When I first started, and it was really difficult, I thought I can just do this until I’m done as vice principal, and I like it. So I don’t mind doing this,” she said of arriving on the junior high campus seven years ago.

As years went on Medlin shared she realized she wanted to grow and do things which would be beneficial for students and beneficial for staff. Upon learning the position of principal would be coming available, she made the decision to throw her hat into the ring.

“The interview was on a Friday afternoon, so I was very nervous going into a Friday interview,” she confessed. “So it was just a little bit nerve wracking. But they did call me that evening and said that it looks good. We just kind of have to wait for a few things to make it official.”

That following Monday as she arrived on campus, official it was. Since then Medlin has been busy juggling both a bit of her VP responsibilities as well as getting situated into her new role across the hall from her old office.

“I’m just trying to get on track and I don’t have a couple months to get ready for the position,” she said of the mid-year appointment. “So I just kind of hit the ground running and hoping that I can do my best and that people are forgiving of my mistakes because there will be many.”

However, being true to who she is as a person, as well as an educator, Medlin does have areas which she feels are important to focus on in terms of the students, especially coming off of the past two years.

“I have always been big on mental health and I think that right now our kids are desperately in need of mental health and just check-ins, even the strongest, greatest families,” she said of utilizing district and campus resources. “Everybody just kind of needs to see where we’re going.

“In order to do well in school, you have to be mentally just ready to go,” she continued. “So that is a big focus of mine. We have some learning loss from last year that we need to focus on and getting kids back on track.”

Medlin noted that social graces also must be addressed as eighth graders missed a whole year of in person instruction and seventh graders missed a portion.

“Just being able to understand why these things are happening and how these kids have lost not only a year of academics, but really a year of zero social interactions at this grade level where they need them so desperately,” she said. “And there are those kinds of little wiggles and idiosyncrasies that they get out each year, build them up for the next year. Well, we’re dealing with two years’ worth of it now and trying to get them on track and help them to be good humans and take care of each other and themselves and move forward.”

Now more than ever, she said, working on social skills will be key to continued overall growth for the students.

“So really, that’s my big focus,” she concluded. “And then, with all of that in place, I hope to get to the point where we are actually really bringing up academics and getting kids back to where they need to be and ready for high school.”

Medlin shared that through it all, she remains impressed and inspired by the resiliency of the students as well as the teachers, noting that she feels the teachers have lived up to it and gone above and beyond to serve the students. Serving the students, in fact, in a whole new way they’ve never had to before.

“The thing I love most about my job is my students. They are amazing. They are quirky. They are individuals, they have so much to offer,” she said. “I love bringing out the differences in each of them and applauding and praising and growing the differences in each of them and giving them a place here at the junior high where they can be themselves.”

Now settling into her new space, new job, new challenges and a fresh new year, even if it is mid-stream, Medlin shared sincere gratitude.

“It’s humbling and I feel very honored,” she said of the new position. “To have been selected … I’m sure there was a number of people that could have taken over this position and done very, very well so I want to make sure that I can do the best I can and honor that gift that they’ve given me in being able to take this position.”