There was no shortage of daily challenges for Janie Gates at Olympic High School.
It’s a small campus, for one, so resources are limited. It doesn’t have the strong parental involvement that is characteristic of other campuses in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district. And its students arrive far behind in their credits with a wide variety of academic issues and personal problems.
“At a school site there’s always more to do and nothing is ever complete and done,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement and renovation.”
Those challenges motivated Gates as she served as principal of the district’s continuation school for 11 years, but her time with the district is coming to an end as she prepares for retirement. Her last day is June 30.
The district announced in May that Gates would be succeeded by Anthony Fuller, who has been a teacher at the school since 2002.
“I’m excited to … build on the achievements of my predecessor, Dr. Janie Gates,” Fuller said in a press release announcing his promotion.
Gates aimed to avoid the spotlight during her decade-plus tenure at Olympic, but she leaves with a variety of accomplishments as she worked to elevate the school’s stature in the community and build partnerships with government agencies, nonprofit groups and local businesses.
Under Gates’ leadership, Olympic was designated by the state as a model continuation high school in California.
Gates also helped Olympic and the adult education center earn accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The high school received an award for its elective course offerings from the California Continuation Education Association.
With the state pushing for more career-focused education, Gates was instrumental in bringing to Olympic a course that will prepare students for possible jobs as certified nursing assistants.
Olympic graduates received $33,000 in scholarships this year.
Gates, who grew up east of Downtown Los Angeles in Montebello, attended Whittier College and gravitated towards education when she decided that she wanted to work with children.
She received a master’s in speech pathology from University of the Pacific in Stockton, later earning an administrative credential from Cal State Los Angeles and pursuing a doctorate in education at USC.
Gates worked for nearly 30 years in the L.A. County Office of Education, starting out as a special education classroom teacher. She then oversaw staff development in the county’s special ed and juvenile court and community school divisions before transitioning into alternative education.
Gates took the top job at Olympic after managing federally funded programs for Los Angeles and seven other county education offices.
While living in Santa Monica for the last 25 years and raising her daughters in the local school district, Gates has compiled great memories. She said she always enjoyed watching students “who once were dour and skipping days at school” smile as they received diplomas during graduation ceremonies.
In retirement, Gates said, she’s looking forward to traveling with her family. But there’s more work on the horizon, too — she’s already scheduled a January stint in Dubai, where she’ll be inspecting international schools.
As for other plans?
“We’ll see what I discover once I have the time to focus on something new,” she said.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.