As a campus security officer at Lincoln Middle School, Charles Martin had to be ready for anything.

In 2008, the campus was placed on lockdown after authorities received a call about the possibility of a dangerous person in the area. Later determined to be a prank, the call prompted school officials to escort students to a staging area and release them to their parents.

A few years earlier, Martin was on duty when a fight broke out between two female students at a dance in the school’s cafeteria.

“It was over a guy,” he said.

The incidents were among the many Martin handled in his security position at the California Avenue middle school, where he’s been employed since 2000. Martin, 69, will retire from the Santa Monica-Malibu school district at the end of the school year.

“I’m preparing for a different stage of my life, and I felt this was a quality time to make that transition,” he said. “In your heart, you usually know what’s right. I felt this was right.”

Martin’s retirement brings to a close a 15-year career during which he built relationships with numerous students, parents, teachers and staff. Those relationships, he said, helped him promote a safe and welcoming environment at Lincoln.

“That’s one of the things I’ve prided myself on,” he said. “I’ve been able to connect and engage with a lot of the students. Getting to know the students, that’s one of things that has kept me here. I could always be there for them.

“There were challenges, but there were very few confrontational situations. Kids will be kids, but most of them have grown up within the city, they’ve gone to the feeder schools and they know what to expect when they get here.”

Martin navigated an indirect route into campus security. After graduating from John Muir High School in Pasadena, he attended Pasadena City College for a year in the mid-1960s until he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

When he returned from abroad, he started taking classes at the California Institute of the Arts as he weighed a career in graphic design. But then he became a father, and he felt he had to  change his direction because that industry wasn’t providing steady work for him.

Martin started working with his father, a contractor, and developed into a capable plasterer and stucco mason.

Meanwhile, he said, he grew interested in security by watching how the guard at his church handled the safety role.

“I was impressed by the way he did things,” he said.

Martin ended up taking a security position at Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles from 1993 to 2000, at which point he applied for an opening at Lincoln. He said his knowledge of and background in security helped him land the job with SMMUSD.

“I’ve been with it every since,” he said.

In retirement, Martin is looking forward to traveling with his wife, helping out at his church and having more time for landscaping at his home.

“It’s been pretty rewarding,” he said of his time in SMMUSD, adding that he wishes he started working in the district sooner. “It feels really good to be wrapping up at Lincoln because Lincoln is the place I know.”

jeff@www.smdp.com