A Message from Our Principal & Our Director

A Message from Our Principal & Our Director

Dear Families & Students,

We have heard from many parents that we are a hidden secret of a school. The programs and people at Hillside are what make this a special place for students who would otherwise be left without essential support to help them thrive. We have served a niche of students who struggle academically, socially and/or emotionally for over 52 years. Ms. Hatcher and Mr. Cortez have 42 years of combined experience at Hillside in several different capacities including teaching and administration. Each staff, faculty and board member of Hillside is dedicated to help students with an individualized program to support their needs and maximize their growth. We welcome you to reach out and see our school in person, as this is the best way to appreciate what our school embodies.


Cyndi Hatcher & Joao Cortez

Joao Cortez - Principal

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in History from California State University, Fullerton, Joao applied for a substitute teaching position at Whittier Unified School District. During this time, he found a passion in teaching, but also noticed there were a variety of students that always seemed to be struggling academically. Speaking with the teachers and staff, he found many of these students were on IEPs (individual educational programs).  As he began to research special education, he became more fascinated. He soon applied for various positions in special education throughout the city. He was lucky to find an opening at Hillside back in 2000 and then enrolled in a teaching credential program and later earned a master’s in special education all while working at Hillside. During this time, the support and encouragement that was given to him by the staff were immeasurable. In turn, he shared that same support and encouragement with the current and future students at Hillside. Joao feels honored to serve as the Principal at Hillside School and Learning Center.

Cyndi Hatcher - Executive Director

Ms. Hatcher joined Hillside in 2001. She received her BA in Education from University of West Florida and her MA in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Secondary Mathematics Instruction from California State University of Los Angeles as well as a California Teaching Credential in Secondary Mathematics. Hatcher began her teaching career in Florida public schools as an elementary school teacher and a middle school mathematics teacher. She moved to southern California in 2001 and began teaching at Hillside as a math teacher. She taught all levels of math from pre-algebra level through Precalculus. After 10 years of teaching at Hillside, she took on the role of Associate Director handling the oversight of all Hillside programs including summer school, day school, tutoring and educational therapy. In 2020, she became the Executive Director after her long time predecessor retired.