Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 11:03 pm | Fair 58º

 
 
 
 

New McKinley School Principal Jackie Mora Has Plenty of Reasons to Feel at Home on Campus

With numerous ties to Santa Barbara, educator is looking forward to building on school’s academic success — along with some fun field trips

McKinley Elementary School’s lawn was buzzing with activity Friday as Principal Jackie Mora walked through, greeting students leaving their classrooms, excited for the festivities that would take place that evening.

Friday was the school’s annual fall Kermes, or carnival, and the campus PTA had set up booths selling fragrant posole, tamales and other treats that its members had been preparing in the school’s kitchen.

McKinley teachers had been working for a month on the much-anticipated haunted house set up in the basement, and Mora seemed happy to jump right into school life at the elementary school that serves Santa Barbara’s Lower Westside.

She began as principal on Aug. 27, and is one of four new principals in the Santa Barbara Unified School District this year.

“It’s a lot of learning,” she told Noozhawk, adding that she feels like she’s been embraced by the teachers, parents and students.

Originally from Shafter, northwest of Bakersfield, Mora has connections to Santa Barbara from college; she earned degrees in Spanish and Chicano studies from UC Santa Barbara and returned to get her teaching degree from the school in 2000.

During that time, she was granted an emergency credential to teach for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which was facing a dearth of teachers.

Mora taught first grade in a Koreatown elementary school, and returned to Los Angeles again after getting her teaching credential.

One of the reasons that drew Mora to the job in Santa Barbara was her memories of student teaching at Franklin School, McKinley’s Lower Eastside counterpart. She was a student teacher in second- and sixth-grade classes there, and “that experience really made an impression on me,” she said.

Mora also served as principal of John Marshall Elementary in Glendale and was most recently principal at Sanchez College Preparatory School, a pre-kindergarten-to-fifth-grade school in San Francisco’s Castro District.  

At that school, in the San Francisco Unified School District, Mora said much of the focus was helping kids set goals and plan their futures moving toward higher education.

“It’s the same here,” she said of McKinley School.

Banners lining McKinley’s hallways proclaim “We Are Going to College,” and pennants from dozens of colleges are secured on the walls, sending a powerful message to the 410 students.

Those were put up during the tenure of former Principal Emilio Handall, who helped bring the school out of program improvement — one of only two schools in Santa Barbara County to do so.

Handall, now SBUSD’s assistant superintendent of elementary schools, made significant changes at the campus, and Mora said much of her work will be building on his legacy of great expectations for students.

“They have the ability and the potential to do unimaginable things,” she said.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM, subjects continue to be a focus, and Common Core State Standards are also new at McKinley this year, as with all public schools throughout California. Mora said the teachers are working together to implement the changes.

Mora is excited about the opportunities the students will have this year — the fourth-graders just returned from spending the night aboard the 19th-century tall ships funded by the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

Sixth-graders will also get to take part in the beloved Science Camp that was discontinued last year because of a lack of funding. The district has made that a priority this year for every school, not just those that could raise enough money to pay for the trip.

Looking ahead, Mora said she’s excited to play her part in the district.

“The reason I’m here is to provide a service to our students and families,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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