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Marching to his own tune

By MIKE MORRIS

When Tyler McCartney, a junior at Calaveras High School in San Andreas, skipped school last week to attend a San Francisco rock concert, he didn't think he'd run into anyone he knew.

Not only did he recognize someone, but that someone happened to be his principal, Mark Campbell.

"I thought it was kind of cool to see my principal there," the 16-year-old said. "Most people think of a principal as some sort of tight wad."

It's safe to say that Campbell, 38, is no tight wad.

For starters, he's a drummer in a band. He's also a confessed "wannabe surfer" who digs Van Halen. Occasionally, he'll play hooky from work to relax, such as when he showed up at last Tuesday's music festival, Lollapalooza.

"My greatest fear is that I become one of those stereotypical principals," said Campbell, a 1983 graduate of Calaveras High. "I tell the staff to slap me — to give me a perspective check — if I ever get like that."

As principal of Calaveras County's largest school, Campbell oversees 1,100 students and 54 teachers. He says daily interaction with students is the best part of his job.

"It's a frustration of mine — that I have to deal with adults more than kids," he said from his portable office. "So many times when I'm dealing with kids it's for negative issues. That's why I like lunch, because it's a great opportunity just to talk with them."

During lunch break, which students have outside, Campbell patrols the campus and is treated like a celebrity. He's greeted with smiling faces and waving hands.

"What's up Mr. C?," one student says. "Hi, Mr. Campbell," another screams. A laughing girl runs up to him so she can rub his bald head.

"If they don't feel the administration cares about them it creates problems," Campbell said. "It's not like we force ourselves to smile and be out there with the kids."

Campbell can relate to his students. He talks music and football with them, but he can also lay down the law.


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