Be The Change: Patti Furnari – A Stellar Educationalist


Patti Furnari, director of Stellar Charter School in Redding, leads by modeling respectful behaviors that nurture positive relationships with parents, staff and students. “Patti is the ultimate team player who leads by example and encourages everyone on our staff to work together and support each other, both professionally and personally,” says Terri Lhuillier, 1st through 5th grade science teacher.

Office manager Diane Patmore agrees: “I’ve never worked for anyone so generous, caring, fair and thoughtful.” Diane is the first person visitors meet when they come through the door. “Patti encourages office staff to welcome everyone as if they are the only one who has a need to be met. Every student, family and guest comes with a different request. Patti and all of us go to great lengths to fulfill each request.”

As a leader, Patti believes the key to success is leading with compassion, and that obstacles are barriers to overcome one step at a time. “I remain patient, calm and flexible,” she says. “Sometimes it takes time to look at a situation through a different lens in order to find solutions that work.” 

art-1114-btc2Patti came to Stellar as a teacher in 1999 when the charter school opened. Four years ago, she was hired as the director. The school’s focus is personalized learning and a blended homeschool model. The approach requires positive, ongoing parent-school communication. “Patti is always available to discuss issues, answer questions, and listen to and implement parental suggestions,” says Stephanie Hodges, parent club president.

  School staff and parents collaborate to educate students using rigorous curriculum and engaging enrichment activities. “Patti truly believes in educating the whole child and has a clear vision of how she wants to accomplish that,” says Gretchen Collard, Stellar Charter High School counselor. “She communicates this vision clearly to her staff and inspires all who work with her to continuously evaluate what is best for the students, as well as how to improve our own teaching and leadership strategies.”

Developing new programs is a passion for Patti. She uses what she calls “the backward design.” In 1999, she implemented the Living History Docent Program at Shasta State Historic Park. A shortage of educational opportunities for school groups at the park prompted Patti to create a program where students learn to interpret life in the 1850s and 1860s. “The students bring life to the streets of the historic site,” she says. With the help of park staff, the Redding school district’s superintendent, and her principal, the program became a success and continues to this day. “The winning combination is student and community partnerships,” she adds.

Her newest project is Career Technical Education (CTE) for Stellar High School students. This internship program provides on-the-job experiences for students and motivates them with real-life opportunities. It allows for community networking that benefits students as well as local businesses and organizations.

Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Patti moved to Redding in 1979 to marry her best friend Joe, whom she had known since junior high school. The couple has three adult sons, one grandson, and two more grandbabies on the way.

Patti and Joe own the Furnari Sausage Company in downtown Redding. They started their business by making sausage in their home kitchen according to Joe’s mother’s recipes that were “a pinch of this and a handful of that.” They formalized the recipes and tested them on family and friends.

As a way to center herself, Patti practices yoga at Balance Yoga and teaches yoga at X-treme Fitness. “A demanding part of my career is taking care of others’ needs; it can be depleting,” she says. “I find that yoga keeps me balanced.”

A favorite activity for Patti and Joe is Sunday morning breakfasts on Whiskeytown Lake. “We go out on our boat with coffee, a good book, and a fishing pole. Sometimes we stay all day,” she shares. “It’s nice to have our own special time.”

As a school director, teacher, wife, mother and grandmother, Patti surrounds herself with affirming people. “I cannot do this life alone,” she says. “I surround myself with people who help me shine, and I enjoy helping them shine. Life is good!”

Patti Furnari can be reached at (530) 245-7730. 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”580″]The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature a community member from the North State who is actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to [/sws_grey_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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