Meet the new dean — except you may already know her


Kristie Kim

Nicole Carter, Burlingame’s new dean as of the spring semester, works in her office on Feb. 2.

Kristie Kim, Social Coordinator

At this point in her career, Nicole Carter has done practically everything at Burlingame. She’s taught health, guided studies and nutrition. She has also led leadership and served as the activities director. Every Burlingame student knows Carter, and her name is synonymous with support, positivity and energy. Midway through this school year, however, Carter took on an entirely new role: dean of students.

Several years ago, there was a dean at every school site in the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD). However, when the district added additional assistant principals on each campus, the role went away.

As the duties of assistant principals piled up, the district sought a role that managed behavior, discipline and school safety. The solution was to re-introduce a dean — an administrator who worked with students on a personal level to ensure academic success, consistent attendance and a tight-knit school community. 

“The district looked again at reshuffling, [with] the sites just kind of needing more support around behavior or supervision, so now every school site has a dean,” Carter said.

Although she enjoys her new position, Carter’s had to face a big change in atmosphere – leaving the classroom. 

In taking on the role of dean, Carter left behind the classroom environment to support students in a more holistic way.

“I’m really working on how to build connections with students that I don’t know well,” Carter said, “so that they look at me as somebody who’s really trying to be helpful and supportive while changing behaviors, versus somebody who’s mean and just trying to assign detention.”

After 20 years of teaching, Carter’s new position means a different kind of interaction with students. She is grateful for the students that stop by her office every day to say hello, but recognizes the potential to form new relationships with a wide variety of students as dean. Although her time as dean started recently, Carter looks forward to everything to come and wants to remind students that she welcomes all ideas, she said. 

“I hope that students know that I have an open door policy and that if they have ideas or changes to policy or ideas that would better connect students, please come see me and talk to me about it,” Carter said. “Or, if you feel like you don’t have enough of a voice and you have an idea on how that could change, please come see me and let’s work together.”