New Malibu High principal named


The associate principal of Santa Monica High will replace 11-year Malibu High Principal Mike Matthews in August. In June, Matthews announced he would be leaving Malibu High to accept an assistant superintendent position with the SMMUSD.

By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times

Mark Kelly, who for five years has been in administration at Santa Monica High School, will take over as principal of Malibu High School in August when former Malibu High Principal Mike Matthews moves into the position of assistant superintendent of human resources and chief of staff for the district.

Kelly said he met with a quorum of Malibu students, teachers and parents, who were chosen for their active involvement with the high school, near the end of June. That dialogue went smoothly, Kelly said, and he received an offer and accepted the position of principal a few days later.

Kelly said he has not yet formed specific goals for Malibu High other than “just to make it a superior school” with “amazing achievement.” He said he would focus on helping students who are falling behind and strengthening the special education program so that the school can adequately serve all its students.

As for the contentious issue of drugs and alcohol, which came to the forefront this spring after Malibu High students were caught intoxicated on a school trip to New York and eight failed Breathalyzer tests at the prom, Kelly said, “I think what’s going to be important is that whatever policy is set, that it’s going to be applied consistently.”

The district’s policy has been that students caught with drugs or alcohol must transfer to another high school for 10 weeks. But parents, especially those whose children are in the middle of transfer punishments after the tumultuous spring, have been protesting the policy that uproots students in the middle of the school year.

At its last meeting before summer break, the Board of Education came to an informal consensus to overturn the mandatory transfer policy, but it did not decide what punishment system would replace it. Board members have discussed giving principals the power to decide, on an individual basis, whether each student must transfer or face some other punishment.

“I would stand by whatever policy the Board of Education decided on,” Kelly said, adding that if the board does assign principals the responsibility of doling out punishments on a case-by-case basis, he will try to have set criteria by which he will determine punishments and make those criteria known to the public. Kelly said mandatory transfers “don’t always serve the needs of the students.”

Although he does not have children of his own, Kelly has 17 years of experience working with them. After growing up and attending high school in a northern suburb of Minneapolis, then earning a bachelor’s degree in math and education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Kelly moved to Los Angeles and began teaching math at Francisco Sepulveda Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The next year he moved to another LAUSD middle school, Richard E. Byrd, where he taught math for two years.

Following his three years at the middle school level, Kelly switched to high school, but again he stayed within the LAUSD. He taught math at North Hollywood High for nine years, during which time he received both masters and doctorate degrees in education from UCLA.

Upon completion of his doctorate in 1999, Kelly took a job at Santa Monica High, where he began his administrative career. Over the past five years he has held a variety of administrative positions at Santa Monica High; he will remain associate principal, second-in-command to Santa Monica High Principal Ilene Straus until August.

During the past two years, Kelly played an instrumental role in planning and implementing the “house” system at Santa Monica High, in which students are randomly assigned to one of six houses when they enter the school. A house consists of about 30 teachers and 575 students, and the students take core classes like English and math from the teachers in their houses. The system divides the massive student body into smaller groups where students receive individual attention, and it encourages the teachers of each house to reach across subject borders and work as a team, Kelly said.

While Kelly is concluding his duties at Santa Monica High, he said he has already been in “conversations” with Mike Matthews and others in Malibu about how to make the transition at Malibu High as smooth as possible.

Currently, Kelly lives in Los Angeles, and he said he plans to stay there, at least for the time being.