A tragic accident that happened to him at the age of 21 shaped the destiny and outlook of Randy Buoncristiani, the new principal of Chino Hills High.
Finding his niche in education came about unexpectedly.
He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners baseball organization a year after graduating from West Covina’s South Hills High, where he had been on the winning CIF baseball team in 1992.
After two years with the Mariners, he was traded to the Mets organization.
While with the Mets, he was involved in a car accident that resulted in a stress fracture to his leg which ended his baseball career.
The only other person in the car, his teammate Tim Bishop, was killed.
“We were hit by a drunk driver, a husband and wife in their 60s that were both three times the legal limit,” he said.
Eleven years to the day of the accident on April 18, his son was born.
Mr. Buoncristiani, who turns 44 on July 21, said he would like to form connections with his students, particularly those who are going through a hard time.
“Even though I can’t know exactly how someone is feeling, no matter what a person is going through there are still good things ahead,” he said.
His previous administrative positions were at Doris Dickson Elementary in Chino, and before that, at Canyon Hills Junior High in Chino Hills, where he started his career in the Chino Valley school district.
He had been approved by the school board to start at Chino Hills High in March, but after Dickson parents and teachers petitioned the school board, he was allowed to stay through the end of the school year. He is replacing Isabel Brenes, who was at Chino Hills High since November 2013 before taking a job last winter as director of human resources at the Chino Valley school district office.
He said he chose teaching for his second career because he enjoys working with children.
At Dickson, he was known by students as “Mr. B.”
When asked how he would feel if that name sticks with him at his new post, the principal said he would be okay if students called him “Dr. B” or Dr. Buoncristiani, since he recently completed his doctorate in education.
He said he had changed his last name from Vickers to Buoncristiani to carry on the last name on his mother’s side of the family.
“Now I have three boys, so I think the name should be good for a bit,” he joked.
He and his wife Jeana Buoncristiani reside with their family in Upland.
The youngest of their four children is in elementary school and the oldest, a daughter, attends college.
Mr. Buoncristiani said initially he won’t make any big changes at Chino Hills High.
“The students work hard and will be successful,” he said.
He said he hopes to build relationships and get them to enjoy their time in high school and “have some fun.”
“All kids have the ability to be successful,” he said. “Our job is to support them.”