Following the path to administration

June 22, 2018 Staff Writer

Mark Anderson, principal of Marshall Fundamental Secondary School in Pasadena Unified School District, is the embodiment of a strong and effective leader. He is steadfast in his commitment to every student’s success, creative and resourceful in his approach to solving problems, collaborative and supportive with teachers and staff, innovative in trying new technologies, and a lifelong learner.

No detail is too small for him to notice and address and no problem is too large for his team to tackle. At a school with students in grades 6-12, almost 70 percent qualifying for free or reduced lunch, these problems include a student body with high poverty facing daily challenges in reaching their goals.

For his exceptional leadership, Anderson has been selected as ACSA’s 2018 Secondary Principal of the Year.

With two parents who served as educators, public education was something Anderson valued, and a temporary teaching position after college led him to follow in his parents’ footsteps. His desire to have an even greater impact was the impetus to earn his administrative services credential.

“My path to administration may not have happened the way I had planned it to, but it happened the way it was supposed to, and I have benefited from being mentored by strong and outstanding women,” Anderson said. “I would not have become an administrator and then grown as one if it were not for more experienced administrators recognizing some skill or talent in me and nurturing it in me and encouraging me to take risks and grow.”

Now a mentor himself, Anderson is staunchly committed to the professional growth of his staff, as well as the achievement of his students.

The results have been measurable and far-reaching. These include receiving honors such as California Gold Ribbon School, NASSP Breakthrough School Award, and California Exemplary Arts School, and being named one of America’s top high schools by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, the attendance rate at Marshall Fundamental increased to more than 98 percent, while the suspension rate has been reduced by 20 percent.

To Anderson, these accomplishments are possible because of the commitment of his team and the greater community.

“Every award my school has received or students have received are really the work of a team of people dedicated to public education,” he said. “Even receiving this honor, it is not just the work I do, but I am supported so much by such a wonderful community around me. While the school has received some incredible honors, I also feel proud of just being at graduation and seeing those students walk across the stage who have overcome and accomplished so much at a young age.”

He is proud of how much more involved the community has become in his school.

“Attendance at events and parent meetings has grown tremendously,” Anderson said. “Any time we can rally the community around schools it creates a better school and a better community.”

Superintendent Brian McDonald agrees.

“Dr. Anderson exemplifies school leadership in all facets of the job,” McDonald said. “He is admired by the community and works collaboratively with the parents to build a stronger school for all students.”

Membership in ACSA has played a key role in Anderson’s career as an administrator from the beginning.

“ACSA gave me a different perspective of education,” he said. “As a site leader, I could get lost in the work of the school. Being involved in ACSA I was able to step away from the school and take a more macro view to education. Often when we are dealing with an issue at school we can feel all alone like no one would understand.

“When I got out and met other administrators through ACSA, I would realize that there are others doing the same work, dealing with the same issues, and immediately my professional network grew and I felt supported beyond the school site.”

Since joining ACSA, he has served on state committees and councils and on region and charter boards, and received the 2011 Secondary Co-Administrator of the Year Award.

As a leader, Anderson calls himself a “missionary for a free and equitable education for all students.”

“The belief that a high quality education provides equity to our American society grounds and elevates my leadership. I have faith in the work of public education that we can strengthen the world,” he said. “To redefine what is possible we have to look at ourselves and remove our own perceived limits as leaders.

“I know I am limited as a leader, but when I connect with others it erases those limits, because as a team of educators we are changing the world. Together we can achieve the impossible.”


All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored during the President’s Celebration held Nov. 9 at Leadership Summit. The Summit will take place Nov. 8-10 in San Diego. Go to www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit to learn more and to register.

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