Rhett Carter has been trying on more “hats” as of late, walking the halls of Orcutt Academy High School wearing those of disciplinarian, counselor and overall leader.
Carter, who most recently served as an assistant principal at Santa Maria High School, says he’s still getting used to being the head administrator, especially at the smaller Orcutt charter high school where, technically, he has no assistants.
“It’s been so busy, but the best kind of busy you can have,” Carter told Noozhawk recently, talking about his first year in the new job. “I always like to learn.”
Carter took over the principal position from his good friend, Ted Lyon, who left last summer to be closer to family in San Diego.
As a 1993 graduate of Santa Maria High, Carter is familiar with the area where he has served as a teacher, administrator and football coach since 2002.
Carter explains that he kind of fell into a teaching career — he had done missionary work in South America, and originally planned to become an FBI agent — after receiving encouragement from those in the field.
He began his career as a coach at his alma mater, then moved across town to Pioneer Valley High School when it opened in 2004.
Carter took on the athletic director role until 2011 when he returned to Santa Maria High to work alongside his former classmate, Principal Joe Domingues.
When the opportunity arose at Orcutt Academy, Carter needed little time before deciding to go for it.
He’s honored to be working with and for 500 students who have chosen to attend the Orcutt district’s only high school, which has a long waiting list each year and a population committed to college preparation.
Carter smiled when noting that 95 percent of all students are in some type of extracurricular activity.
“Everybody is on board,” he said of the school’s student-centric focus. “Definitely feels like a family at work.”
Staff and families have been very welcoming, Carter says, noting that his own family has also felt the love. He and wife, Nicole, have four children — the oldest a senior at Pioneer — with another on the way.
He says he’s excited to lead school staff and students through a number of “firsts,” including the pending switch to the Common Core curriculum.