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?