Then…And Now: Principal Dr. Neil McCurdy 

2 photos side by side of SET High's principal: One photo taken when he was in high school and one that is current. The caption says "Then and Now".

Then…And Now: Principal Dr. Neil McCurdy 

Dr. Neil McCurdy might be our fearless principal at the School for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET High), a tuition-free 9th-12th grade high school in San Diego, but he was young once too. We talked to him about his life in high school as he braved the New Delhi bus system and his life today when adventure might mean crossing the Tetons on foot in a day or facing a classroom of high school students. What career did you want to pursue when you were in high school?

Science writer.  I loved the magazine Popular Science and wanted to write for it.

Did you have any after-school and/or summer jobs while in high school?

I did inter-office mail delivery at the US embassy in New Delhi, India, and I helped with IT at the US Embassy in Tunisia.  I actually created a flyer for the Secretary of State’s visit to Tunisia!  Of course, I also had an obligatory fast food job (a rite of passage for every teenager), frying fish and working the cash register at a fish shop on the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  Fun times!

What school activities were you involved with in high-school? 

I played varsity basketball, soccer, field-hockey and fast-pitch softball.  We played local Indian teams for practice games, but the competitions that mattered were the end-of-season tournaments with other international schools. Some of the tournaments were hosted at home, but we usually had to travel to different cities in Pakistan for the tournaments. 

We played softball instead of baseball because there were no other baseball teams in the region so we were a high school team in a men’s league that played on the weekends. 

I played saxophone in a school band called Saturday Saints. I was in the orchestra pit for some of the school plays.

What music did you love listening to in high school? Now?

U2 and Bruce Springsteen were my favorites, but anything rock worked. I listen to everything, but nothing wiggly and no smooth jazz (both have the same trait of being wiggly!)

Did you attend any memorable concerts in high school? 

Live Aid concert in New Delhi where we saw Bruce Springsteen and Sting who were headlining, but the cool thing was that there were only about 30 of us lounging in the grass right in front of the stage when the unknown Tracy Chapman was playing!  The Indians only cared about Bruce so they didn’t come until he was on.

What was your go-to after school snack in high school? What about now?

Shoestring french fries at the American Embassy club.  Chips and guac are my go-to now.  It’s actually just chopped avocado.

What did you eat for lunch in high school? What about now?

I ate seven cheese sandwiches. One for each period. The whole wheat bread occasionally had a beetle in it, so I always had to search for a beetle before eating it.  Probably only really happened once or twice, but that’s all it takes to make you paranoid.

What was your favorite class in high school? What class would you like to take now at SET?

IB Theory of Knowledge was my favorite class because it was non-traditional.  I would have loved to have had my class (computer science) in high school; that’s why I teach it!  I think that I’d enjoy all of the classes we offer, though.  We have some lucky students!

How did you get around in high school? How do you get around now?

In India, everyone with money (and you didn’t have to have a lot  of money to have money in India) had drivers and other domestic help.  My parents preferred to not have me take taxis or rickshaws (for accident safety reasons) if I could avoid it, so my parents’ driver would drive my group of friends around.  Tough life!  I still took plenty of taxis, though.  It would cost between 50 cents and $2 for the 20 minute drive home depending on which mode of transportation I took.  My friends and I took the 2 cent public bus a couple of times for fun.  Those are the buses that have about 20 people holding on to the outside and on the roof.  Very few students drove because it was so dangerous.  There was a fatal accident involving a student driver a couple of years after I graduated.

What an incredible high school experience you had! What do you love about SET- what sets it apart from other schools?

I love the community.  No cliques.  The students get to be their authentic selves with no judgment.

And finally, what is something you wish you knew at age 19?

Stop rushing to grow up.

We’re so happy to have Dr. McCurdy here at our California Distinguished School and welcome you to join us. You can design your own learning path filled with rigorous academics, truly unique electives, fun clubs, sports, and best of all, beetle-free sandwiches. Enrolling now!

About SET High 

SET High offers each student individual attention from multi-talented, highly qualified  teachers. Students build a healthy camaraderie with classmates inside an intellectually rigorous environment that brings out their talents and personality, helping them develop their individual character and direction in life. With a wide variety of electives, flexible scheduling, dual enrollment college classes and more — our students regularly exceed their academic and personal expectations. Enroll now