In-House Choice for Carver’s New Principal

After Liz Hollingsworth announced in April that she would be retiring after 21 years as Carver Elementary School’s principal, San Marino Unified School District looked far and wide for a suitable replacement. But the best candidate, it turned out, was close at hand.
Michael Lin, who has spent one year in the district as assistant principal at Huntington Middle School, received the School Board’s approval last week as Carver’s next principal, having risen to the top in a pool of 41 candidates.
Lin spent four years as the principal at La Rosa Elementary School in Temple City before joining the SMUSD, so he has experience in this kind of role. More importantly, his heart seems to be in primary education. Lin enrolled his daughters, now 9 and 10, at Valentine Elementary School for this past school year, and when he would visit the campus, he said, he felt a tug to return to this learning environment.
“Just the feeling of being with the little ones — the kindergartners from Day 1 when they’re bright-eyed — it brought back really warm and happy feelings,” he said. “It’s something I had missed this past year.”
In a statement, School Board President Nam Jack said that Lin’s “experiences as an elementary school principal at La Rosa, district administrator [in Temple City Unified] and assistant principal at Huntington Middle School have greatly prepared him to shape educational policy to the betterment of students and staff” at Carver.
Lin comes to this job with credentials that are uncommon for elementary school principals. His educational and career course began in engineering, and he didn’t detour into education until the terrorist attacks of 9/11 caused him to reassess his goals. A friend and colleague who was on a similar track to success as a software engineer in the investment field was killed in the World Trade Center while working with Cantor Fitzgerald.
“It could have been me,” Lin said in reflection.
That triggered a detour into teaching middle school math, and he’s been hooked ever since. SMUSD’s superintendent, Dr. Alex Cherniss, marvels over someone who has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in business administration in computer information systems, and realizes he has an ideal candidate to advance the district’s heightened emphasis on science and technology instruction.
Lin previously served as principal for special projects and director of technology for the Temple City district. To round out his credentials, he is also pursuing a doctorate degree in education at Azusa Pacific University.
Lin is “uniquely qualified to be the next Carver principal,” Cherniss said. “His curricular knowledge, his experience and his enthusiasm are the perfect combination.”
Lin also speaks Mandarin, though it wasn’t his native tongue when he moved to the United States from mainland China at age 7. He spoke the Wenzou dialect in Zhejiang Province, and learned Mandarin here concurrent with picking up English.
The concept of character education has been one of Lin’s passions. “It’s about reaching the heart,” he said. “The kids here do really well academically, but the social-emotional component is also very important at elementary levels, where it’s more developmental than cerebral. Character education is teaching kids to be responsible for their own actions. Adults need to be the models so kids can see as opposed to just hear.”
Lin, who takes over the principal’s job on July 1, said he plans to lean heavily on Hollingsworth, who is remaining in the district as a consultant for instructional services. He will also “try to understand the climate and culture” at Carver by being available to parents, teachers and staff.
“I will be sitting down with Liz, picking her brain — and making sure my brain doesn’t explode,” Lin said. “I want to find out what is the secret ingredient to her success the last two decades.
“Liz’s legacy is phenomenal. I come from my own strengths and backgrounds. Engineering is in my past. Hopefully, I can add value in that area as well.”

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