Marcia Haskin, who served as the interim principal at Palisades Charter High School for three school years between 2007 and 2011, died of a stroke at home on August 15. She was 77 and still working as an educator.
Although Haskin had officially retired from LAUSD in 2004, she was hired to replace Gloria Martinez as PaliHi principal in 2007-2008. Martin Griffin was hired as principal in 2008, but stayed only a year, so Haskin agreed to return for two more years as the interim. Filling the position permanently was proving to be problematic at such a large school (close to 3,000 students), and Haskin was seen as providing experienced stability.
At that time, Pali’s Executive Director Amy Dresser-Held told a local reporter, “Marcia has been very successful in her short time at Pali in building trust among all stakeholders and in increasing accountability across the board.” The article noted that Haskin “coaches teachers and evaluates their performance in the classroom. In addition, she assists parents with their concerns.”
Born in New York on February 3, 1943 to Toby (nee Horn) and Abe Hersh, Marcia moved with her family to Baltimore. She graduated from the University of Maryland before following her family to California, where she began her 56-year teaching career, the majority of which was in LAUSD.
Haskin’s first job was teaching French at Manual Arts High School, where she stayed for seven years. She took two years off before spending the next 22 years at L.A. High School. In addition to teaching English and journalism (and inspiring several careers in writing), she worked as dean of students at the principal’s request. This kindled her interest in administration, and she obtained her credentials.
At age 52, in 1995, Haskin became an assistant principal at Bancroft Middle School, where she reconfigured instruction to focus on standards-based education. The following year, the school showed the largest jump in achievement statewide. It would become one of Haskin’s mantras to focus on achieving standards, not taking tests.
LAUSD Area Superintendent Merle Price, who had previously served as principal at Palisades High, noticed the academic achievement growth at schools where Haskin worked. He helped promote her to director of secondary student services in South L.A., where she worked from 2002 until 2004.
When she arrived at Palisades High in 2007, Haskin told writer Max Taves that she had “failed at retiring.” She tried to pass the time by learning to play the saxophone, joining a book club and playing more golf. But she missed being an educator and went to work at Loyola Marymount University, where she supervised students who were working to obtain their teaching credentials.
In the fall of 2018, Haskin once again came out of “retirement” to become acting principal of City Honors International Preparatory High School in Inglewood until January 2020, when she transitioned to coaching the new principal, Saba Araya. She also helped the school rewrite their charter with a successful renewal and arranged financial support from a foundation.
“Mrs. Haskin had class and style – truly unmatched,” said Araya. “She was able to unify our staff and her memory will stay with us forever.” An Inglewood United administrator noted Haskin’s “quick wit and the joyful smile on her face as she spoke about the teachers, students and staff at City Honors.”
Merle Price, now an adjunct faculty member and field supervisor for candidates in the Principal Leadership Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, sent the following recollections about his friend Haskin:
“After I left PaliHi in 1998, I was placed in charge of the schools in the Hamilton, University, and Palisades complex. My first major decision was to be replacing Hugh Gottfried, the long-time respected principal at Palms Middle School. It was not going to be easy to replace this much-admired leader.
“I knew of Marcia’s work as an assistant principal, but I had not really worked with her and experienced the full range of her amazing personality. I convened community and school groups at Palms in order to give input and, of course, they wanted someone who had all of the attributes that any mortal human would be challenged to fulfill. I had a small representative group interview Marcia and other candidates. We came to consensus on Marcia and needless to say, in a few weeks she had everyone at the school laughing, had won over teachers and parents, and was already known by most of her students.
“My first visit a few days at the start of school, I could not believe the school office and the principal’s office. Everywhere examples of student work were displayed and there were all kinds of student created mobiles and artifacts hanging from the ceiling. I could barely navigate my way into her office. In her first faculty meeting, she had challenged teachers to have students engaged in projects that demonstrated how talented and smart she knew they all were and to demonstrate how, even at the beginning of the year, they could demonstrate the ability to achieve higher level standards (in an era of standards-based instruction). I was blown away–they were already celebrating what Marcia’s vision was for the school. Needless to say, they loved her. She constantly reinforced her expectations by positively engaging students, teachers and parents and keeping them laughing.
“I look forward to a memorial service when we can all be together and share stories about Marcia,” Price continued. “She would certainly want us to be laughing as we reminisce about her. She once told me with enthusiasm that a teacher had described her as ‘the Joan Rivers of education.’ She certainly loved to keep everyone laughing while modeling a school culture that embraced all. We need more leaders like Marcia.”
Haskin is survived by her husband Mark, daughter Jennifer Friedlander and son-in-law Michael, her three granddaughters, sister Michelle Watts-Shine, stepdaughter Monica Savage, nephews, cousins and many friends.
Said Merle Price, who frequently met Haskin for coffee or breakfast: “Marcia adored her granddaughters (taking them on a trip to Israel last summer) and frequently attended their gymnastics practices and tournaments.”
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Marcia Haskin Memorial Fund, IUSD Business Office (Attn: Isabel Montenegro), 401 S. Inglewood Ave., Inglewood, CA. 90301