If unbridled enthusiasm is a prerequisite to be principal of San Marino High School, go ahead and check the box for Dr. Isaaic Gates, who on Tuesday night was approved by the board of education by a unanimous 5-0 vote to replace Mary Johnson, who will retire at the end of June.
Gates currently serves as assistant principal in charge of athletics and arts at Los Alamitos High School, a 3,300-student institution in Orange County.
“I have lived in the San Gabriel Valley for years and the whole time I have lived here, San Marino High School has been considered the standard of educational excellence,” said Gates, a resident of Duarte. “I just want to be a part of that and see what it looks like.
It’s a dream job, like a reach school to a senior in high school. It has always been my dream to work with that group of students. Whatever it looks like, whatever we need to do, it will happen in San Marino. That bar of excellence will happen here and I want to be a part of it.”
Gates said he responded to a job posting on EDJOIN, a national search website for educators and administrators.
“You see jobs there all the time and I thought ‘San Marino? Really? OK!,’” said Gates. “I guess I’ll apply. I was both pleasantly surprised and extremely excited to get a call.”
Gates sailed through the interview process and was recommended to the school board at a closed session meeting on Monday night. On Tuesday, he got the official nod.
The native of Panama City, Florida said he feels qualified for the position from several different perspectives, but said he feels most accomplished in curriculum.
“That is probably my strength,” he said. “From an instructional leadership point of view, that is probably my strength. I am also confident in my ability to form relationships and strike a political balance here as well. Dealing with parents and boosters, one has to be pretty savvy to stay afloat here. In that way, Los Alamitos is quite similar. I will do a lot of watching, looking and listening to get up to speed with the culture at San Marino.”
Gates said he read more than 200 articles from the San Marino Tribune in order to familiarize himself with the community during the application process.
“I wanted to be as informed as I possibly could be. I also did lot of basic research of previous API scores as well as the new measurement system. I am going through as much as I can to learn about the community, but at the end of the day, you gotta go to know. That’s a real statement and you have to be willing to learn. And I can learn and lead at the same time.”
Dr. Isaaic Gates – his first name is pronounced similar to ‘mosaic,’ he said – attended Mosley High School, where he played football and basketball and ran track. He attended the University of Central Florida where he played football alongside former NFL quarterback Duante Culpepper, received an academic scholarship and graduated in three years, receiving his diploma in 1999.
“I was adventurous, had $1,600 in my pocket and a full tank of gas,” he said, explaining his sudden relocation to Southern California.
Gates began teaching in the Pasadena Unified School District while earning a Masters Degree in 2010 in Education, Administration and Leadership. He took a Doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2013 from the University of Southern California, where he is still an adjunct professor.
“I really believe if people understand how to learn, it doesn’t matter what they are learning. They can be successful,” Gates said.
Gates also taught at McKinley School in Pasadena where he took a liking to robotics and coding. His voice swelled with pride when he mentioned winning Pasadena’s first robotics competition.
“That was a big passion of mine,” he explained.
He moved on to Los Alamitos in 2012, where he was an administrator in charge of attendance and later added the responsibilities of activities, facilities and ASB. Earlier this school year, Gates was put in charge of athletics and the visual and performing arts.
Gates, 39, is married to Dr. Rasheeda Gates, an educator in the Duarte Unified School District. The couple have three children; David, Grace and Emerson.
“I am incredibly excited and humbled at the same time,” Gates said. “I consider this an incredible honor. There is a lot of trust being placed in me to lead a fantastic school into the future and there are a lot of families who trust the leadership of this district to make a good choice. I feel fully prepared to do that work and am looking forward to meeting the community, the teachers and the students. I look forward to authentic relationships. To learning together, and moving forward together.”