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Marina High School Principal Morgan Smith has fostered strong relationships with students and staff by being highly visible on campus.
Smith’s leadership style centers on visibility and relationships
September 19, 2022
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Morgan Smith Award: Secondary Principal of the Year Title: Principal, Marina High School, Huntington Beach Union HSD ACSA highlights: Member since 2009.
One of Morgan Smith’s top priorities is to model engagement with all school activities. The principal of Marina High School attends nearly every athletic event and performing arts show on campus, conducts walk-through administrative meetings, and puts himself at the forefront of staff development planning.
Smith’s strategy of leading by example has fostered strong relationships with students and staff. He helped to develop a districtwide Student Wellness professional development program and is active in efforts to address student and community needs, such as facilitating staff equity retreats and school diversity, equity and inclusion training.
Dan Bryan, director of certificated human resources at Huntington Beach Union High School District, said one of Smith’s strengths is his ability to value “each person’s name, face and story.”
“I know his sincere desire to build relationships has made a positive impact at Marina, especially in light of being a principal at a high school during a pandemic,” Bryan said. What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? My favorite book on leadership is actually a book about psychology: “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. I’ve applied a growth mindset in my personal and professional life, and it’s how I encourage others to reach their potential.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Learn from your mistakes. Great leaders acknowledge their own and grow from the opportunity.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? Family comes first. Family will be there to support you when you’re overwhelmed with work, so you’d better take care of family at every opportunity.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Pro tip for new admins: Don’t put in an email what you can explain with care in person.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? That I’m actually a shy, reserved person, but have exercised my outgoing nature to be what I project.
What made you want to become a school administrator? I don’t know if I planned to. I said yes to everything, and here I am.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? Wanting to take on every challenge has always been a challenge.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? My family and kids are what make me most proud. After that, transforming school culture as a principal at three schools and leaving them better than where I found them has made me feel very accomplished.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? ACSA has connected me with other great leaders who have helped mentor me and provide a network of support.
What new strategies are you using to ensure student success in the post-“return to school” period? Students may be back on campus, and for most of us, free to choose whether they wear a mask. At this point, things are still not back to normal. Schools are scaffolding learning around all the facets of being a student. Our most helpful strategy is not to assume that students or their parents know how to navigate success. Being intentional and patient has helped us with struggling students. The same can be said of teachers; we try to provide the same support for new and veteran teachers alike.
2022 Secondary Principal of the Year Morgan Smith.
2022 Secondary Principal of the Year Morgan Smith with the school mascot.
2022 Secondary Principal of the Year Morgan Smith with his family.