When the school year kicks off this week, Mammoth High School (MHS) will have a new, but familiar face in the principal’s office.
Chris Powell, who has served as MHS’s Athletic Director as well as its Earth Science and Physics teacher and its WASC Coordinator, was chosen by the Mammoth Unified School District Board as the Interim Principal. The Board made the decision final on Aug. 8. It came on the heels of a two and half-week open application process, Powell said.
“There were several other candidates,” Powell said, including some from out of the area.
Powell expected that the Board would begin the search for a permanent principal sometime next spring, with a start date of July 1, 2014, and he plans to apply for that position as well.
“I’m stepping up to help right now, but I’m also interested in the position long-term,” he said.
As a father of two, Elizabeth (4 years) and Lincoln (6 months), Powell would love to be the principal when his children graduate high school.
While Powell is serving in the Interim Principal role, he said the school would hire an Athletic Director to the fill that position in his absence.
“The Board will do a full search for principal next year and it could end up being me or it could be someone else in which case I would return to the Athletic Director position,” he explained.
Powell has his Administrative Services Credential as well as a Masters of Arts degree in Secondary Education. He admits he does not have a lot of Assistant Principal experience, which is usually a stepping-stone to Principal. However, he does already have relationships with staff and the community.
Mammoth schools, including MHS, tend to take a beating from the local community in terms of the quality of the education received. Powell, however, isn’t letting that keep him down.
“We have challenges,” he said. “And we’re good at highlighting our challenges and never focusing on the good things we are doing. We need to keep the good things going and face the challenges.”
Powell said he believed that by making a few minor changes at MHS, the school would see big results.
This year he is already working with teachers to really focus on “engagement in all classes with all students.”
“Don’t let the kids in the back of class get away with not paying attention,” Powell said. “I believe that student engagement in classrooms is critical to successful teaching and learning. Our goal is to engage every student at Mammoth High School. As we transition to the Common Core State Standards, our efforts will focus on 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.”
Powell’s background includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from USC, and more than a decade of teaching experience.
“I started teaching at Wilmington Christian School in Hockessin, Delaware from 1999-2002,” Powell said. “From 2003-2011 I taught at Jordan High School in Los Angeles Unified School District. From 2005-2011 I was the Athletic Director there.
“From 2011 until the present I have been teaching and assisting with administrative duties, in addition to Athletic Director duties, at Mammoth High School.
“This is my 15th year teaching high school,” Powell said.
His teaching credential is in physics, but he has taught a variety of things including chemistry, P.E., basic algebra, algebra readiness, anatomy and physiology, as well as the aforementioned Earth science and physics.
As a coach and athletic director, at the varsity level he has coached baseball, swimming, girls volleyball, and boys lacrosse.
As for future goals, Powell said, “Along with MES and MMS, as well as other schools in Inyo and Mono counties, over the next two years we will be implementing a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) system to create a positive, welcoming, safe environment where teaching and learning is the focus.”