Orange County

One Orange County Principal Follows in His Father's Footsteps

One Orange County principal is following in his father's footsteps occupying the same office his father used as a principal 30 years ago.

An Orange County principal is really experiencing déjà vu. He is now working at the school where he spent four formative years and he's doing it in the office where his father was principal 30 years ago.

Jimmy Martin admits that education is in his blood.

He initially wanted no part of it. In a photo Martin was a freshman on the football team, his brother a senior, and his dad was the principal. All three side-by-side at El Toro High.

"When I walked into this office and just kind of had a moment," Martin said. "It was late summer and I looked at these blank walls and this is really happening."

Now it's 2022 and the name on the business card is his. Martin had filled those walls with his own history, family, children, degrees, and yet he credits his father Don with laying the educational groundwork. He encouraged him to study hard and work harder.

Martin admits he went out of his way to live up to the family name. It's a name Monalee Vail remembers well.

Martin was her student in middle school. She was hired by his father to teach at El Toro High in the 90s.

"His father hired me in 1991," Vail said. "Jim will hopefully retire me in a couple years."

It wasn't long after he graduated from college that Martin came back to his campus, first as a coach, then a teacher but he says when he walked into the principal's office all high school memories came flooding back.

Martin was a heavy metal fan with the buzzcut back then, who excelled in AP classes. Now his goal is to contribute to the school's legacy.

"Just making sure we have a family feel our students are cared for in a safe place sounds cliché but that's really what we do here, why our school exists," Martin said. "Proud to be able to carry that torch."

He has his father's ten commandments for first year principal's, conveniently left behind in the office he now occupies.

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