For years, Janie Gates heard from friends about their work as evaluators of international schools. They would tell her about their travels, their visits to different campuses and their in-depth examinations of the various academic environments.

“It just sounded like a great adventure,” she said.

Now that Gates is retired from her post as principal of Olympic High School, she is getting the opportunity to experience that adventure firsthand. She is spending much of this month in Dubai assessing American-based educational institutions.

Gates arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 4 and will return to Santa Monica on Jan. 29. While abroad, she’s working for the government agency that oversees accreditation for private schools. She is part of a team that is tasked with studying three different English-language K-12 schools in Dubai for one week each.

“They’re all private schools that have enrollments of students who are from all over the world, not just American students,” Gates said.

The schools are required to be appraised each year, Gates said. The inspections are similar to accreditation visits in the United States.

Gates, who earned a doctorate in education from USC and served as the Olympic High principal for 11 years, brings ample experience on both sides of accreditation to her temporary position in Dubai. She knows what it’s like to prepare a school for an accreditation visit, and she’s also served on teams that have inspected other campuses across California.

During Gates’ time with the Santa Monica-Malibu school district, Olympic was designated by the state as a model continuation high school. She also helped Olympic and the SMMUSD adult education center earn accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Recently, the high school received an award for its elective course offerings from the California Continuation Education Association. And with state leaders advocating for more career-focused pathways, Gates helped to bring to Olympic a course that will prepare students for possible jobs as certified nursing assistants.

Gates worked for nearly 30 years in the Los Angeles County Office of Education, first as a special education classroom teacher and then as a staff development coordinator in the special ed and juvenile court and community school divisions. She later managed federally funded programs for eight county education offices in the region.

She made the transition into alternative education administration with SMMUSD in 2004, taking the top leadership job at Olympic. When she retired June 30, Anthony Fuller, who has been on staff there since 2002, replaced her at the Ocean Park Boulevard school.

Gates told the Daily Press last year that, after a long career in education, she was looking forward to traveling more with her family. But she said she has no particular plans for when she returns to Santa Monica from the UAE.

“I’m just enjoying retirement and having time to explore new things,” she said.

jeff@www.smdp.com