Friday, August 17 , 2018, 8:21 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

San Marcos High Principal is Retiring

Craig Morgan, who had been at the school five years, is a 35-year educator.

After five years at the helm, San Marcos High principal Craig Morgan is calling it quits at the end of the current school year.

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Morgan, 61, announced his retirement to the school staff in an e-mail this week.

Reached Tuesday at San Marcos Road and Hollister Avenue, Morgan said his decision was based on a formula that combines a person’s age with the number of years he or she has served in the public education business, which for him has amounted to 35.

“It’s time for new leadership,” he said. “I’ve taken the school as far as I can take it with our celebrated collaboration.”

Known for his collegial leadership style with staff and good-hearted banter with students, Morgan’s San Marcos High was one in which teacher consensus was paramount.

For instance, the school’s decision to ban the use of iPods on campus this fall came after teachers expressed their concern at a staff meeting about the distraction posed by the devices.

Morgan said the school’s test scores this year have reached historic highs. Indeed, San Marcos’ scores recently surpassed those at Santa Barbara High, although they are still slightly lower than the marks of Dos Pueblos High, according to the most recent data available on the state Department of Education website.

Also, San Marcos’ Academic Performance Index (API) leapt by 28 points, while those at Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara high schools both fell.

The school’s success this year with extracurricular activities also pleased Morgan, who is known never to miss an opportunity to holler a hearty “Go Royals!”

This year alone, the dancing Marquettes won the USA Nationals in Anaheim, the marching band played the halftime show at the Orange Bowl, the Madrigal Singers graced Carnegie Hall and two of the school’s sports teams — water polo and track — took first-place awards for the high GPAs of their players, as compared to their peers across Southern California.

Teacher Eric Burrows said Morgan is a rare leader in his unflagging support for the school’s staff.

With too many other administrators, Burrows said, “you’re going to find faculty and staff who say ‘He didn’t support me in confrontations with parents,’ (or) ‘He says no when I try to do something new and different and innovative.’”

Not so with Morgan, Burrows said.

“One mark of a very good principal is that people feel free to develop new programs,” he said. As a result, teachers at San Marcos win awards for creative ideas, Burrows said, citing a teacher named Phil Levien, who won an award from the local Anti-Defamation League for designing a curriculum in which English learners perform Shakespearean plays.

For all the good times, however, the school this year also has experienced some strife, mainly in the form of a couple of confrontations with school district headquarters.

At last week’s school board meeting, for example, San Marcos teachers lambasted a proposal to reduce the number of teachers at their school in an attempt to equalize the student-to-staff ratios at all three high schools.

San Marcos staff members fear the proposal — which will be voted upon by the school board Tuesday — would effectively wipe out their unique 90-minute periods, known as the “block schedule.”

Staff at San Marcos chafed earlier this year when a report produced by downtown administrators seemed to indicate — without corroborating evidence — that their school was the most dangerous of the district’s three high schools.

But Morgan on Tuesday said his decision had nothing to do with such things.

“It’s just time for Craig to take some time off,” he said.

Morgan said he is working with teachers and top-level administrators to buy some extra time — at least one year’s worth — for the block schedule, perhaps until a new union contract is agreed upon.

He added that he doesn’t envy the school board’s position, saying the district’s finances are straining under pressures created by California’s budget crisis.

“The state is in a real quandary,” he said. “The district is in a really tough position.”

When he was hired for the job at San Marcos five years ago, Morgan had been principal of Temple City High. That school is located near Pasadena, where Morgan was born.

“My daughter found the job advertisement (for the Santa Barbara job) in the Los Angeles Times, and I applied,” he said.

At the time, Santa Barbara High highlight was also in the market for a principal. District administrators wound up giving Morgan his pick between the two schools, so impressed were they by his interviews. Morgan chose San Marcos largely for the block schedule, which some educators believe allows students to devote more time to extracurricular activities.

Morgan began his education career as a teacher, counselor and assistant principal in El Monte Union High School District, where he himself attended school. There, he coached several teams, including track, cross-country and football.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cal Poly Pomona, a master’s degree in administration from California State University-Los Angeles and a counseling credential from the private Azusa Pacific University.

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