TBCMNaviaA Conversation with Michael Navia, Principal
Marshall Academy of the Arts, Long Beach Unified School District, CA

THE BREAKTHROUGH COACH: Mr. Navia, you’ve come full circle in your career as an educator. Can you tell us about that?

MICHAEL NAVIA: I began years ago as a college aide at this school, believing that I wanted to be a professor. When I began working here, though, I found that I just loved being in the classroom with the kids. I graduated and began teaching at Marshall. I also coached sports, even deejayed for school dances – I loved every minute I spent with the kids. After I got my masters, I really didn’t want to move out of the classroom, but I was offered a promotion to assistant principal at Hoover Middle School, another school in the district. The opportunity – and the additional salary – were just too attractive to pass up. Two years later, I was promoted to principal at Cubberley, a K-8 school in our district. I spent a total of 10 years there before coming back here to Marshall as principal.

TBC: Tell us about your experience at Cubberley, which is where you were when you began working with TBC.

MN: Cubberley was a high-achieving school with a socio-economically diverse student body and high expectations of its administrators. My days were hours long, and I found myself still working on e-mails at10:00PM. I began working with TBC during my second year as principal, and that really helped me to get my priorities straight.

TBC: Would you say that The Breakthrough Coach Management Methodology™ helped you lead Cubberley to even greater academic success?

MN: Definitely! During my time there, Cubberley was twice named a California Distinctive School, which is the highest award a school in this state can achieve.

TBC:You moved back to Marshall as principal three years ago, correct?

MN: Yes, and the difference between the two schools was dramatic. The diversity that I encountered at Cubberley just didn’t exist at Marshall. 98% of our students were bused from elsewhere in the district, and it had become one of our lowest-performing schools. We were in “Program Improvement”, which legally requires changes and alternative governance. We had no active parents in our PTA. Our “governance” consisted of the faculty, two assistant principals, 2 -1/2 counselors (2 full-time & 1 part-time), 1 parent (who didn’t have any children at the school and worked in the correctional system) – and me, working with 1,000 students!

TBC: How did you begin the process of change?

MN: We looked at other schools as models for some things, and I used TBC’s Management Methodology™ as a model for becoming the instructional leader the school needed. I’m not sure if our superintendent was aware that I had been working with TBC at Cubberley, but he’s certainly aware now! He brought me to Marshall to make changes, and TBC enabled me to do that.

TBC: Tell us about those changes.

MN: We are now a school of choice, which means that parents choose to send their children to Marshall, and we have a much more balanced and diverse student population, with no students bused here. As a matter of fact, administrators at other district schools are now choosing Marshall for their own children. There were 35 parents at our most recent PTA meeting. Our API has risen 69 points in two years. We are now being used as a model by other schools. I still work closely with TBC (my new secretary joined me at a Two-Day Program and is now working with me under TBC’s guiding principles). I coach first-year and aspiring principals, who shadow me and use me as a role model for instructional leadership.

We have had two visits by Fellows from the Eli Broad Foundation, and the California State Superintendent recently held a press conference at Marshall to highlight the changes we’ve made – especially the collaborative way our teachers work together.

TBC: That’s an impressive record of achievement, especially over a relatively short time.

MN: We’re all proud of what we’ve been able to do at Marshall. As always, success can be attributed to many factors, but I firmly believe that it wouldn’t have been possible without The Breakthrough Coach Management Methodology™.

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