Meet The Next Principal Of Newark Memorial High

Phil Morales joined NMHS last year. He has been a public school educator for nine years, after working as a police officer and training to be a Catholic priest.


Phil Morales will take over as principal of Newark Memorial High School next academic year, to replace the retiring Edward Marquez.

He comes to NMHS by an unusual path as Patch learned in a recent interview.

Morales, 42, grew up in southern California. He is a graduate of the Class of '89 at Saddleback High School in Santa Ana.

After high school he got into law enforcement and worked as a sworn officer in the city of Orange.

After about four years he quit the police department to study philosophy and English at St. John's Seminary College, intending to becoming a Catholic priest.

In 2001 that path took him to St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, where he developed an appreciation for the Bay Area.

"But I decided (the priesthood) was going to be a very difficult life, celibacy and all of that," Morales said, and so he returned to southern California to teach at a parochial school while he also studied to be a guidance counselor.

After he earned a "pupil personnel credential" allowing him to become a public school guidance counselor he returned to the Bay Area to become a counselor at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.

In 2011 he was named Terra Nova's assistant principal.

Last academic year he became assistant principal at NMHS.

In the coming academic year Morales will move into the top post overseeing a staff of about 150 faculty and a student body of about 2,000.

He acknowledges that rapid prinicpal turnover has been an unwelcome aspect of life at NMHS and said his first goal is to assure staff, faculty, parents and students that he means to stay.

"I hope this is going to be my home for the next seven to ten years if that's the way my career goes," said Morales.

He said he and his wife, a counselor at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, currently live in Mountain View. But he plans to look for a home nearer Newark. 

He says he will make himself visible around town and seek to enlist parents in school activities. One big change for parents and students will be the coming of a new, computerized career guidance program called Naviance (see accompanying article). 

Among the school's physical needs Morales lists some leaky roofs and a heating and air conditioning system that is too cold in winter and too hot in summer. 

Morales counts among his skills an ability to analyze systems for what works and what needs to be improved.

He said he senses a desire among faculty for consistency after years of turnover, but also a willingness to change things that need changing.

"The advantage of being the guy from the outside is that I see things in a different way," Morales said.

Any words of advice, warning or wisdom for the new principal?

Carol April 26, 2013 at 05:09 PM
I am very happy to have Phil! I hope he is strong enough to make teachers accountable for absences, grading papers within a week, using Schoolloop. Students are waiting months to get feedback from homework; why give homework if you are not going to grade it? How can our students improve without feedback as to improve? Teachers are allowed to miss school far too often and students are falling behind due to subs not teaching curriculum and grading homework! I am pro union BUT this teachers union is far too strong! They are the tail wagging the dog! There are teachers at NUSD that should not be there as they cannot teach, but once tenured, they cannot be fired! Phil will need the help of the board to overcome some obstacles already present. Mission and Irvington are on the list of the top 1000 high schools in the US! Phil, go to Irvington , where the demographic is diverse, and learn what they are doing to achieve the top 800 spot! There is no reason in the demographic of Newark that our school should be on that list! It can only be due to poor teaching practices!
Margaret Jean Mikel April 29, 2013 at 07:50 PM
FINALLY!!! The district has hired a principal that is not going to retire on us!!!! I do not know him personally but I am involved with a lot of the staff at NMHS and I hear nothing but praise about Phil. From my view our school has gone downhill since Patty Christa. She kept that school going strong in all areas, especially academics! She was strong to deal with all the problems and the students and parents looked up to her. I was so excited when Dave Marken became our superintendent, and still am, as he has made a difference, and know he will continue to do so. Now, with a good principal at the high school it is time for NMHS to excel again!!!!
Chris April 30, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Phil seems like a highly qualified and passionate man; a great leader for NMHS!! Hopefully the teachers, the union, the administration and the parents will unify and priortize what is important for the students first!!! Mr. Morales obviously has what it takes to lead but he needs the cooperation from the other related parties in order to stabilize the environment and improve security, infrastructure, student scores and graduation rates!!! Good Luck Phil!!!! "Pull 'em all together!!"
Teresa Estrada Mack May 03, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Phil is strong, compassionate, and student-oriented! You go Phil!
Julie June 17, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Dear Mr. Morales: Could you please work with the city and the transit system to help the students at the high school and junior high receive safe and reliable transportation home? Could you also provide some oversight for the traffic congestion in the high school parking lot and the surrounding streets after school? Lastly, could you please work on purging our schools of poor producing teachers (and administration) and reward/retain/promote the good ones? This tenure/seniority retention through the unions has been doing a terrible disservice for years to our students in NUSD. Thank you!


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