Arcadia Unified Names New Highland Oaks Elementary Principal


Champion Named Highland Oaks Principal

Educators and staff from Highland Oaks Elementary School were on hand to celebrate the appointment of their new principal, Debbie Champion (back row holding a floral bouquet)


Highland Oaks Elementary School will have a new principal this fall: Debbie Champion. In a unanimous decision by Arcadia Unified’s Board of Education at its April 25 board meeting, Champion, who has taught in the district for over 25 years, was appointed to the role after a rigorous and competitive hiring process.


Champion began her career in Arcadia Unified as a teacher at Holly Avenue Elementary School, where she taught for over 15 years. In 2013, Arcadia Unified began its instructional coaching program, in which Champion was hired as one of the district’s first instructional coaches, serving as a Teacher on Special Assignment and assisting and supporting teachers in the adoption and implementation of Common Core standards. It was through this opportunity that Champion first began serving the Highland Oaks community. After a year in this role, Champion jumped at the opportunity to become an Academic Performance Coach (APC) for the school. Through her APC job, Champion has championed student social-emotional growth and academic achievement through data-driven, innovative teaching strategies. 


As incoming principal, Champion expressed her steadfast commitment to continuing the school’s student-centered approach to teaching and learning and building upon the campus’ culture of inclusivity and respect for all. 


“I care deeply for the students, staff, and families at Highland Oaks and am highly committed to sustaining its positive learning environment,” Champion expressed. 


“I want all of our students to continue to have access to high-quality teachers and committed staff who know their students’ stories, believe in their capacity for greatness, and will ensure they are empowered to achieve their greatest academic and social-emotional potential.”


Current Highland Oaks principal, Patti Mattera, who as Highland Oaks’ leader for nearly seven years, has been promoted to Arcadia Unified’s district office leadership team as a Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. 



Board of Education Meeting on April 25, 2023, where Champion was appointed Highland Oaks next principal


“This is a very, very proud moment for our district to see one of our own going through all the steps and rising to this level through the growth of her leadership,” said Arcadia Unified Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Brent Forsee during his recommendation of Champion for this role at the Board of Education meeting.


Champion thanked Mattera for her tutelage and for the opportunity to be a member of the school’s leadership team, through which Champion has worked closely with Mattera to help with the development and implementation of various school initiatives, including multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). MTSS, being implemented in all Arcadia Unified schools, is a proactive and preventative framework that utilizes data-driven instructional strategies to maximize student success by supporting students' social, emotional, and behavioral needs using strengths-based tools. 


Champion and Mattera

Passing the baton starting next school year, newly appointed Highland Oaks principal Debbie Champion (left) stands with sitting Highland Oaks principal Patti Mattera


Highland Oaks was recently recognized as a 2023 California Distinguished School, along with Arcadia Unified’s five other comprehensive elementary schools and its alternative learning center. Highland Oaks Elementary boasts a unique clubs program, where students from second through fifth grade can choose from 20 different topic areas ranging from coding, food crafts, and community service to broadcast journalism, sports, and more. 


Champion, whose role as Highland Oaks principal will be effective as of July 24, 2023, shared that she has several things she’s looking forward to in the work ahead.


“I am excited to continue working with the creative, caring, and dedicated staff at Highland Oaks, who go above and beyond to make kindness, leadership, and student voices soar, and I am excited to continue finding ways to support and partner with our families and community to make a positive impact in the lives of our students.”


To learn more about Highland Oaks Elementary School, visit For enrollment and information about the Arcadia Unified School District, visit