Mark Sims reflects on 2017-18 school year
“It’s the people here that I think I’ve been most impressed with, our students, our parents, our teachers,” Principal Mark Sims said. “It’s a unique situation, and I’ve been in a number of places. I would compare San Marin favorably to the best places that I’ve been.”
The end of the 2017-2018 school year will conclude Sims’ first year as the principal of San Marin High School. Within this time, the school experienced multiple changes, from the use of the “What, How, Why” system in classes to the acquisition of vending machines. Sims was also one of the proponents of the Public Service Academy, which has not been finalized yet, and he oversaw the implementation of the One to the World program at San Marin, which provided students with their own Chromebooks.
The school has also experienced many tragedies, including the deaths of Athletic Director Craig Pitti, senior Ben DeFilippis and alumnus Ryan Zirkle, as well as the wildfires that swept through Northern California. Amidst these events, Sims aimed to prioritize providing students or staff members with help, rather than his previous agenda.
“I’ve tried to recognize that everyone’s emotional state was critical, and push what I had hoped to move forward to the backseat to deal with all the other things that have been going on,” Sims said. “I really don’t feel that we’ve made a lot of progress in terms of a checklist of things, but in terms of working together with people, I think there was good progress.”
Despite these setbacks, Sims believes that San Marin has the foundation to be built upon in the next few years, especially with regards to the strength and resilience of the community.
“If you have great kids, great students and the support of parents, then [the school] can move forward, but if you’re missing one of those three, it makes it very challenging,” Sims said. “I think all those three pieces are here, and without so much misfortune, it will be a lot easier to move forward in the future.”
One of his aims for next year, the creation and use of a tutorial system, was implemented during the two weeks of CAASPP and AP testing. According to Sims, the goal was that students would have the opportunity to catch up on missing work in certain classes, use the time productively to study or get a head start on work in other classes. The proposed schedule for the 2018-19 school year, which included the tutorial system, did not pass during a union vote.
“I’m confident that we will continue to look into something that’ll support students, but I’m also worried that when we do get our WASC visit in 2020, we won’t have something done,” Sims said.
While some believe that they have not had enough time to form an opinion about Sims as a principal, students like junior Lara Fleischhauer already hold a positive view of him.
“I think he’s a nice person who listens to multiple opinions before changing things,” Fleischhauer said. “There was an issue at the beginning of the year regarding writing backstage in the student center, and a couple of students and I got together and talked to him. In the end, he agreed with what we brought up.”
Despite being new to the Novato Unified School District, many students believe that Sims has taken the initiative to help student-run clubs, such as Speech and Debate and Robotics. Senior Brian Burrous, a member of the Robotics team, feels that Sims’ willingness to help the club is one of the things that makes him a good principal.
“When I met with [Sims] regarding Robotics, you could tell that he really cared about getting things done,” Burrous said. “He saw the value of the club and wanted to make sure he helped us grow and improve… Some more support from the school would certainly offer a tremendous return on investment.”
Other students believe that there are a few aspects of the school that Sims could improve on. Junior Carina Masters believes that one area of improvement could be the representation of the student body, especially with regards to important decisions.
“I think it would be great if he figured out how to get a more diverse representation of the student body when it comes to making decisions about things,” Masters said. “It feels like the administration only listens to a few voices, and I know that a lot of the music kids feel left out. If Dr. Sims were able to somehow help those students voice their opinions, then I think it would make a lot more of the student body feel satisfied with what is happening at school.”
Reflecting on his first year as a whole and the impression that the San Marin community has left on him, Sims feels that there is something that sets the school apart from others that he has worked at.
“The students here are a lot of fun,” Sims said. “I’ve been impressed with the fact that when I’ve had the opportunity to talk with them, they understand the bigger picture, and overall people really want to do what’s best and see people be successful here, and that’s unique. That doesn’t happen in many places, so that’s the one thing I’d want to walk away with.”