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Middle school plucks new principal from neighboring district

selection -- District picks longtime Hillsboro principal to lead NAMS
by: , Mario Alba

Mario Alba, principal of J.B. Thomas Middle School in Hillsboro, has been selected as the new principal at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove.

He replaces Sherry Adams, who will retire in June after six years at NAMS. His one-year contract with the district will pay him a salary and benefits package worth $103,930.

Alba, 54, a Portland resident, has been at J.B. Thomas for 11 years. He will start his job in Forest Grove on July 1.

'Mario brings us strong leadership skills and a proven record of success as a principal,' said Jack Musser, Forest Grove School District superintendent. 'He has a strong focus on student success both in and out of school.'

Alba, who came to the United States from Mexico as a child in 1962, graduated from Brigham Young University in Idaho in 1981.

He taught history and Spanish in Las Vegas, Nev., and in Gladstone, Ore., before becoming an assistant principal in Woodburn in 1992 and Milwaukie in 1994.

He has led J.B. Thomas, a 560-student school, since 1996. Neil Armstrong, which enrolls 931 students in grades 7 and 8, is Forest Grove's only middle school.

Alba said Monday that he wanted the NAMS job because he wanted to build on his successes at J.B. Thomas.

'The demographics at Neil Armstrong are very similar to those here,' he noted.

Alba said he hopes to develop a program at NAMS that would help students make a more seamless transition between upper elementary, middle and high school campuses.

'We have the kids for only two years - it's such a short time,' he observed. 'It seems like we barely get to know them and they're moving on.'

Once he's on the job, Alba wants to meet with administrators at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School and Forest Grove High School to come up with a plan.

'If we can develop that idea we're ahead of the game,' he said. 'I don't want the students to miss a beat.'

Alba also wants to expand NAMS' after-school hours to include opening its computer labs into the evening so students can tutor their parents.

'I love the feeling of school 24/7 if we can do that,' he said. 'Developing a sense of community at Neil Armstrong is what I'm about.'