This contribution is from our friends at San Marino High School’s Titan Shield.
By Tom Hindle ‘17
1861. That number is the average SAT score of San Marino students, 12th in California. With this figure among many others, San Marino High is one of the more acclaimed schools in the nation, let alone California. Due to the success of the our school, Principal Mary Johnson was recently recognized by Mometrix as the 19th best High School Principal in the state. Although Johnson acknowledged that it is “a great list to be on,” she stressed that the work all starts with the students. “I can arrange the testing, make the classes work, fix schedules, but the students do the work and that has paid off,” said Johnson.
The esteemed principal is no stranger to the San Marino environment, having been assistant principal for 10 years prior to her appointment as principal for the start of the 2014-15 school year. San Marino has always been in the upper echelon of California’s school districts, but since Johnson arrived in 2004, the district has seen rapid growth and improvement. Evidence for this is can be seen in SMHS’ Academic Performance Index, which now totals 932 out of a possible 1000 points. However, Johnson pointed out that the system has changed in her 12 years at the school.
“The focus has shifted from the STAR testing when all that mattered was getting the right answer. But now the attitude has shifted towards how you solve a problem,” said Johnson.
Evidence for the versatility of San Marino students can be found by the fact that the Titans who took the SBAC testing with no sort of prior studying performed extremely well, a testament to both the teachers and students of our distinguished school. “Our teachers have evidently been teaching how you get to a solution all along. It is just a great tribute for getting what is real education,” said Johnson.
Despite the changes and vast improvements, Johnson still strives for more. While she very much values and commends her students for their excellent test grades, she wants more of a focus on the individual students. She also hopes to promote a sense of school unity through joint actions with the school’s various clubs and sports organizations. Her tenure at the school has been marked by student involvment
“There has been a tendency to focus on achievement. One of the things I’ve always preached is that it is so important to find out who you are in high school,” said Johnson.
To usher in these changes, Johnson has started to implement more programs for personal reflection. This effort starts with the counselors, who are trained to encourage the students to make time for themselves and truly reflect on their accomplishments.
Furthermore, the school has introduced “Mindfully You,” a program that started in Health classes and aims to assist students on relaxing amongst their clustered school lives. This program will be expanded over the coming years, and the students will theoretically find some stress relief with it.
Johnson does not yet have a clear idea of when her time at San Marino will be over, and remains focused on the present. As good of a school as San Marino is, there is always room for improvement, and Johnson is always striving to create a more inclusive school. Despite her personal accolades, Johnson, as she always has throughout her career, puts the students first.
“I really hope that before my days here are over, we can continue to try to help people look inward and discover who they are. Your guidance system for life is in there,” said Johnson.