Lin Engineers Upgrades as Carver’s New Principal

That bachelor’s degree in engineering science is already coming in handy for Michael Lin, who took over as Carver Elementary School’s principal at the beginning of this month.
Among the projects he’s tackled thus far are improvements to the school website, appraisal of the school’s traffic snarls during drop-off and pick-up, and upgrading science instruction so that it reflects 21st-century realities.
Lin admits that his preparations for the new job have routinely kept him up until 2 a.m. lately, evidence that the principal has really hit the ground running, but he added quickly, “I love it. I’d rather do that than wait until school begins and start running then.”
Overhauling the website was what Lin called “low-hanging fruit.” He personally repaired broken links and made certain that basic information is there — the bell schedule, the student handbook — as well as a complete contact list for faculty (with photos) and the PTA.
An open invitation to parents has led to about a dozen conferences, and Lin said the same issue keeps rising to the top of everyone’s wish list: the challenge of getting in and out of the school in the morning and afternoon. “From an engineering background, I can imagine where the congestions are,” Lin said, noting that many elementary schools, including Valentine across town, have multiple points of dismissal. “One of the things I’ll do in my first week, when kids come back, is walk the perimeter, examine some of the bottlenecks. I certainly do not want kids to come late because of our traffic situation.”
But what happens within the walls of a school is always a principal’s top priority, and Lin is excited about a broadened approach to instruction at Carver, much of it driven by the dizzying advances in technology.
“We’re reaching this new generation of students and their learning styles,” he said. “When I was growing up, I remember the card catalog in the library. Citations in the new adoption are hyperlinks, drag-and-drop, bookmarking electronically. It’s a new paradigm of reaching students who are already very proficient in the natural use of technology that they use at home and outside of school.
“The last thing I want to do is have students be bored. Instruction has to be stimulating and interesting, so that they’re intrinsically motivated in the learning process. Any child who learns something new, there’s a rush of happiness.”
It appears Lin has already made a positive impression at Carver. PTA President Nicolette Fuerst, who worked with him on a fundraiser last year at Huntington Middle School, where he served as assistant principal, had positive first impressions.
“He was always very pleasant and approachable,” she said by email from her vacation, “and I was very impressed with his computer skills and knowledge. He cares a lot about the San Marino community and his co-workers.”
As Carver prepares for the first day of school on Aug. 15, it is scrambling to strengthen its English language development services, which serve children who have a home language other than English and have not demonstrated English proficiency in testing. The number of Carver kids in line for these services has doubled each of the last two school years.
English language arts will also be enhanced in grades 3, 4 and 5 by having what Lin calls “a single essential theme per lesson unit.” One such example might be comparing/contrasting — with two works of literature, two works of nonfiction, two writing genres. At the lower grades, the emphasis will be on vocabulary, including segmenting words, blending words and applying the sounds of words.
The new principal expressed his gratitude for the community’s support for all of this — the San Marino Educational Foundation for underwriting faculty positions so that class sizes may remain low and the PTA for its provision for technology, equipment and supplies.
The PTA’s Fuerst, who admitted being “a little anxious” when longtime Carver Principal Liz Hollingsworth announced her retirement this spring, said she feels Lin’s engaging personality will help smooth the transition.
“He is easy to talk to, friendly, a great listener, compassionate,” Fuerst said, “and he wants to keep Carver running smoothly. He respects and understands all the Carver traditions and plans to continue many of them.”
As he approaches the first day of school, Lin admits that he is still having pinch-me moments. He joined the San Marino Unified School District only one year ago, yet has already risen to the job of commanding his own school.
“I still feel like I’m living a dream,” said Lin.
He added, “In meeting staff and faculty, I see that Liz really built a strong collaborative, collegial and compassionate group of employees here. I am enjoying her legacy.”

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