We’re excited to let you know that Minarets High School and Charter High School will have a new principal this school year. Mark Fowler spoke to us about what to expect.
Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Indiana and came to Fresno to attend Fresno Pacific University on a basketball scholarship. I met my wife there who was also an athlete on the college volleyball team. Just before my senior year at a basketball game, I met the assistant principal at Caruthers Elementary who asked us if we were interested in being substitute teachers. We were 22 years old at the time and both subbed for a year. From there, I became the Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach, a PE Teacher, Activities Director, and Independent Study Director. A large part of my teaching duties was with the UCSF Doctors Academy as the lead teacher. Seven years later, I became the principal of Caruthers High School and served in that role for eight years.
I stepped out of education for a couple of years to become the COO of a church with five campuses, but in that process, I realized how much I loved education and what a privilege it is to serve communities and families. I feel very blessed to have gotten this job as the new principal of Minarets High.
What is your vision for the school?
I am a huge proponent of small schools like Minarets High, which has just over 500 students. While excelling at academics is the priority, my vision for the kids is they can be great at anything at the expense of nothing. One of the unbelievable advantages of a small school is that students get to be a part of so many activities, programs, and academic enrichment. All of our students can be engaged in everything. That’s not always an option at larger schools where you may have to commit to one thing.
How does the charter school fit in?
We’re the only school of our kind that is both a high school and a charter school. The charter was created to give additional students access to Minarets High School. Our charter students come from Fresno, Clovis, Madera, and more. About half of the students on campus are in the charter school, but in every way, the charter high school and the regular high school are like one school. All kids are together in the same classes in a traditional setting. You can’t tell on campus who is in the regular school and who is in the charter school, and the students themselves don’t know who is unless they tell each other.
What kind of experience can students and their parents expect at the school?
Dynamic! Students will be exposed to multiple course offerings including Ag, STEM, visual and performing arts, traditional and non-traditional music pathways, media, computers, career technical education, dual enrollment, and more. We have the opportunity to engage with kids one-on-one to see how we can set them up for success. We want to challenge them to experience different things and say here’s how we can help you do what you want to do. The awesome part of a small school is that you can give kids that experience and the opportunity to do that.
As a comprehensive high school, we have many sports teams. Our volleyball team has won the league title every year since inception. We also offer football, cross country, soccer, basketball, wrestling, track and field, baseball, and softball.
How can students get a head start on their higher education goals?
I’m a big proponent of dual enrollment, which allows students to take college classes right here on our campus. Students can graduate high school with college credits due to several dual enrollment course offerings. What a huge advantage of having your college freshman year classes completed when you graduate high school, as it saves both time and money. We offer AP courses as well.
What else is unique about your school?
Our Ag program is one of the best of the state, and our district commitment to Ag and FFA has been tremendous. We have five Ag teachers, CTE facilities for Ag, and a half million dollar grant to be used for our Ag program. We offer Ag science courses like Ag Biology and Ag Chemistry, as well as Ag Business, Introduction to Welding and Manufacturing, and more. It’s incredibly comprehensive.
Our Speech and Debate team competed at the National Championships in Kentucky this past summer. We also have a fantastic media program that brings home trophies from competitions every year. We have an entire building called the Media Lounge where students can learn about video production, film making, graphic design, new media, and more.
In addition, we supply each of our students with their own MacBook, and all of our projects are on Google classroom. Kids need real-world skills to compete in today’s job market, and Minarets has been in front of this for a long time. We have a program with Apple where we replace the MacBooks every four years so we can make sure our students are using up-to-date technology.
What do you see in the future for your school?
I think the future is limitless. We’re committed to the individual success of each student. Because we’re small, we have the unique privilege to be able to really get to know each of our students and their families, and as needs change, we can adapt and meet those needs. For example, last year students wanted wrestling, so that was added to our sports program.
Minarets High School and the Chawanakee Unified School District have done a great job of being forward thinkers to meet the needs of students. We’ve recently added a third counselor to focus on A-G requirements, an assistant principal to focus on extracurricular activities, our first full-time theater teacher, and more math teachers to drop class sizes in math for more individual attention.
I feel so honored and privileged to be the principal here. The students are awesome, the parents have been great, and we’re in an amazing community. I can’t wait for the school year to begin.