Natomas Middle School’s new principal was a Las Vegas commercial bank vice president in 2006, with two children, when his “epiphany” came.
Marcel Baker was active in a group of African American mentors at the time, 100 Black Men of America, and the moment that changed his life came when the group launched a Las Vegas charter school, “100 Academy of Excellence Charter School.”
“On the day it opened, it was like an epiphany – this is what I should be doing with my life,” Baker said.
Passionate about mentoring kids, Baker returned to college — he’d earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance in 1992 – and obtained his teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University in 2010. Since then, Baker has established a strong track record at all levels of K-12 education.
“I’m very much into working with students who are underserved, students who are marginalized, who in some people’s minds might be considered an underdog,” said Baker, who was raised by a single mother and said “it truly was a village that kept me on the right path.”
“So mentoring and giving back has always been important to me,” he added.
After beginning his career as a 4th-grade teacher in Oakland, Baker switched to school administration in 2013. Since then, he has served as an assistant principal or vice principal at two Oakland middle schools and, for the past two years, has been vice principal at Foothill High in Pleasanton.
Baker has been a leader at enhancing school cultures. At Foothill High, he has led a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team in developing and launching a school culture plan. He has overseen implementation of the school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) program. At Alliance Academy Middle School in Oakland, he led implementation of a culture plan that reduced suspensions by 45% and office referrals by 40% during the 2013-14 school year.
Baker also has tackled a wide range of academic and other school administrative responsibilities – at Foothill, for example, he worked closely with Math teachers to implement new state standards and improve student performance. He also coordinated Advanced Placement (AP) assessments, conducted teacher evaluations and coaching, and oversaw the Math, Science and Physical Education departments.
“I’m very much about relationships,” Baker said when asked to describe himself. “I think people would call me friendly and easy to get along with, but very committed to helping students thrive.” A sports fan, he follows the N.Y. Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers but quipped, “I guess I shouldn’t say that coming to Sacramento.”
Three of Baker’s cousins attended Inderkum High and he often hung out with them, so he is familiar with and looks forward to moving to Natomas. “I feel like leading the school as a principal is one aspect, but to be successful, you have to be part of the community.”