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Booker Elementary principal traveled up the ladder from custodian to administrator

At Booker Elementary School, 2277 N. Martin L. King Blvd., Marcus Mason is settling into the position of principal. It is his first time in the head position after 20 years in the Clark County School District. What is different about his career path is Mason started out "cleaning toilets."

After graduating from Bonanza High School, 6665 Del Rey Ave., he worked three hours a day as a custodian at Lincoln Elementary School, 3010 Berg St. in North Las Vegas.

After spending much of his time around teachers, Mason decided that was what he wanted to do with his life.

"I knew I was called to teach," he said.

He attended the College of Southern Nevada and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while also working as a full-time custodian for the school district.

"I was at the school and was with teachers all day long," Mason said. "I was cleaning classrooms and would learn from teachers."

Mason was a student teacher and a long-term substitute before getting his first teaching job at Wiener Elementary School, 450 E. Eldorado Lane.

Going from a custodial position to being a teacher did have its disadvantages, though.

"I had to take a pay cut," Mason said. "That’s what was neat. I was making more money as a custodian than a first-year teacher."

During his early teaching days, Mason still worked one or two more jobs, he said. Sometimes he helped his dad, who was an ironworker.

Mason moved to several schools and up the administrative ladder, all while pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Lisa Primas, principal at Del Sol High School, 3100 E. Patrick Lane, and the former principal of Bailey Middle School, 2500 N. Hollywood Blvd., remembers her time with Mason fondly.

"When I was assigned to Bailey, he was already part of the acting administrative team," Primas said. "I was trying to find out who the players are, and I see this young man that has a lot of insight. He was very intelligent, intuitive, but then I saw him with the kids. So many of us become educators and can get caught up in this administration gig. We forget it’s about relationships with the kids."

As a dean, Mason was responsible for student conduct. Primas said Mason did well with that because he worked so closely with students. Mason coached the intramural soccer team during lunch and after school, which was popular among the large Hispanic population.

"He knew if we help them out, give them an outlet, it will help with behavior," Primas said. "Because of that, I know my kids were staying out of trouble at lunch time and after school.

"Marcus was just a little bit ahead of the curve."

Mason always has been a religious person and is active in his church. Primas asked him to speak to the staff years ago after one of their students was murdered, as it was a situation Primas had never faced.

"I had to lean on Marcus," she said. "We came together as a staff. It was unbelievable."

As principal, Mason said he had to "shake out of being a dean" and focus on more than just students.

"I’m learning my staff, learning my community," he said.

Mason said he would eventually like to be superintendent of a school district. He is not gunning for Superintendent Dwight Jones’ position, though, and said he likes what Jones is doing during this difficult time.

"I just want to make sure I maximize my opportunity," Mason said. "How far can this education take me? How many people can I help with this knowledge I have? I think I’m supposed to help kids. I firmly believe that."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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