Days after the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education had unanimously voted to hire Issaic Gates as the new principal for San Marino High School it hadn’t yet sunk in, he said.
“I’m still pinching myself,” he said. “I really, really am. San Marino is really a dream job. It’s such an opportunity.”
Gates, who holds a doctorate in education from USC, officially takes the helm on July 1 and will leave behind Los Alamitos High School, where he has served as an assistant principal for the last five years. He and his family live in Duarte.
“When you get the opportunity to work 15 minutes from home, it’s like finding a shortcut to work,” he said.
Gates hails from Panama City, Florida, where he attended and played football for the University of Central Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, he began teaching 3rd grade at a school in Orlando, Florida.
In 2001, Gates moved here to begin teaching at Altadena High School and stayed with Pasadena Unified School District until taking the Los Alamitos Unified School District job in 2012. With PUSD, he served as a union representative, was nominated as a Rotary Club Teacher of the Year and introduced robotics classes to the school district.
Gates will replace Mary Johnson, who is retiring after 13 years at SMHS. Johnson first met Gates shortly before the Board of Education meeting, and said she quickly formed a positive impression.
“After meeting Dr. Gates, I know that San Marino High School will be in the hands of a caring and charismatic leader,” Johnson said in an email. “Teachers, students and parents will find an engaging person who will listen to them carefully. I wish Dr. Gates the very best getting to know the school and community and learning to treasure them as I do.”
The Board of Education deliberately waited until mid-meeting to confirm Gates’ being hired in part to showcase the changing of the guard for the Parent Teacher Associations’ presidents. Before the transition, outgoing PTA Council President Yvonne Chen had announced the 148,652 volunteer hours among PTA members this school year and the nearly $1 million raised by the organizations.
“This is not the norm,” Gates said, in awe, at the meeting. “The number of hours that folks invest in the schools, the kids, the lives, that’s real. I cannot wait to be a part of that.”
Gates pledged to continue the excellence at SMHS with the foundation set by Johnson and her predecessor, Loren Kleinrock, who attended the meeting to witness Gates’ hire.
“We wholeheartedly believe you will continue and expand that excellence,” board member Nam Jack told Gates.