Northgate High School Principal John McMorris Resigns After Six Years

June 30, 2014 13:09 pm · 47 comments


After six years at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, Principal John McMorris is resigning, according to a letter send out today.

McMorris didn’t say why he is resigning, but he did say “for six years, it has been my biggest honor and highest accomplishment to be your principal. Together, we have moved Northgate forward and created a strong, collaborative and supportive community between all the stakeholders of our school. We have transformed Northgate into a school that we can all be proud of — Bronco spirit pervades our community; test scores are up; AP classes have increased; football lights shine and a pool is being built; dedicated teachers have been empowered to create dynamic and collaborative professional learning communities; WASC commended us for our outstanding leadership and direction; our athletes perform at the highest levels; our performing arts continue to win awards and recognition; and our students are learning at high levels and are committed and involved in their school. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Click on the image above to read more.

When the MDUSD hires a new Principal for Northgate, we’ll let you know.

NGmom June 30, 2014 at 2:04 PM

What, no more PFC payments, John??

Mdusd employee June 30, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Awwww……after it came to light he was the highest paid principal he decided maybe he should step down? Did the pfc cut him off?

Anon June 30, 2014 at 2:30 PM

About dang time! Come on MDUSD I know you have it in you to get someone great that actully cares about the kids!

Rebel June 30, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Where is the pool being built?

New Northgate Parent June 30, 2014 at 3:53 PM

My son is entering 9th grade at Northgate this coming Aug. Seems like 90% of the coaches left, some new hires have taken place, others haven’t. Now the Principal is leaving. Makes me a bit nervous wondering what we’ll be facing there.

Look for the sh*t to hit the fan soon June 30, 2014 at 3:56 PM

which will explain his resignation.

Northgate madness June 30, 2014 at 4:09 PM

I would not send my Children there if I had to do it all over again. Worst bully experiences and huge drinking, attitude problems. Think twice !

Doctor J June 30, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Northgate was one of 17 schools selected by the district’s new auditors for a full field visit during the first week in May. the end of May, Bryan Richards CFO is put on administrative leave and witnesses say escorted off Dent. Now, the end of June, Big John suddenly resigns after multiple years of firing coaches. are all of these events related ?? only the shadow knows.

KenInConcord June 30, 2014 at 4:28 PM

What’s the connection to PFC funds??

bigdaddy June 30, 2014 at 4:44 PM

time for all those spolied ng kids to transfer to cvhs

CrazyCat June 30, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Mr. McMorris used $40,000 from the PFC to support his Model U.N. Club with only 12 students in it… he obviously used the money for something else.

94598 June 30, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Since McMorris doesn’t have to return the $40,000.00 we donated to the PFC to help our children advance- how about if MDUSD reimbursed the parents donations.

Or even better- Go Northgate Charter High School or Northgate Unified School District! MDUSD is horrible.

Doctor J June 30, 2014 at 6:51 PM

I wonder if the IRS / FTB are pressing Big John for failing to report as income the $40,000 received from the PFC ?? At his tax bracket, with penalties and interest, he might owe a big chunk. or maybe the auditors required the district to give him 1099’s ?? and we still,haven’t heard if the Non-profit status of the PFC is under investigation. How many worms in McMorris’ can ?

anonymous June 30, 2014 at 7:04 PM

Ok 94598,

We all know that when John got that money he went on a very long trip in Europe. What do you call that…research?! And because I know it’s coming, the comments about the “disgruntled teacher”, let me set the record straight. Those teachers who did what was right by their moral compass spoke out and were threatened every day by John and was told that he would fire or get rid of any teacher who stood up or spoke out on what was right or did not agree with the corrupted parents. There were departments hurting because parents did not put into their child’s education for what every means that was, we are all copping their todays economy, but when is came time to ask the PFC to help those departments they simply said the didn’t have the funds.

@94598 June 30, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Ha! Ha! Thats a good laugh, you want $40,000 you donated back.

Concerned Student June 30, 2014 at 7:28 PM

who’s gonna tell us to pick up trash now?

@94598 June 30, 2014 at 7:35 PM

How ’bout the parents who donated the money to PFC sue McMorris and the PFC to get the money back.That was not the MDUSD’s money for once, that was ours.

Cole Baird - NG alum '12 June 30, 2014 at 8:23 PM


Proud NHS Parent June 30, 2014 at 8:43 PM

Dr. J,
There is no scandal. There is no investigation. John McMorris was the best thing to happen to NHS. If you don’t think so you didn’t look at Northgate very closely back before 2008.
Let me tell you what the behind the scene story really is:
The President of MDEA comes from Northgate. He now has the ear of our new Superintendent and he had a posse at Northgate including members of his executive cabinet. The MUN money was approved by McMorris’ boss and voted on by the PFC. At the prompting of MDEA, Meyer, as the new Superintendent, asked McMorris not to continue with MUN and he agreed. All was fine. McMorris wasn’t approached by the Superintendent again until parents in the NHS community began to organize their efforts to create their own school district. McMorris is a casualty of this power play. MDEA was threatened by loss of membership and the Superintendent thought that relocating McMorris would neutralize the community movement. This is pure retaliation against a community who approached the District in good faith. Now I guess we will have to see how well the plan works.

MDUSD Parent June 30, 2014 at 9:27 PM

94598, Obviously you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on at CVCHS. It’s a cautionary tale for everybody who thinks they’d be better off apart from MDUSD. Things don’t always turn out he way you think they will. Just ask Pat Middendorf, the leader of the effort to turn CVCHS into a charter. She just got fired. Ask any of the teachers, who thought they were going to be running the school. They now have less of a say than they did before.

@Proud Northgate Parent June 30, 2014 at 9:34 PM

Ignore Dr. J. The rest of us do. She’s a mentally unstable, disgruntled MDUSD employee who spends her time posting bizarre conspiracy theories and making false accusations against MDUSD staff. She usually spends her time posting on the Contra Costa Times website, but occasionally she wanders over here.

Mary June 30, 2014 at 9:37 PM

Good riddance to a big bully!

@94598 June 30, 2014 at 9:38 PM

Perhaps you should have gone to the PFC meetings if you wanted a say in how PFC money was spent.

Ridiculous June 30, 2014 at 9:53 PM

For any of the Northgate parents who think giving McNorris the 40 thousand dollars was ok and really think the Superintendent is moving the principal to another school was out of fear for the parents who want their own district I e me a break you to MDUSD please leave try CVHS out. We do not need parent like you bringing our district down anymore.

94598 June 30, 2014 at 10:15 PM

@proud NGH Parent–
Apparently we disagree- I believe McMorris was the worst leader we could have had. Perhaps I’m wrong…. Or maybe not, why don’t you check superior court cases and northern CA district court cases for McMorris’ leadership history

Randy June 30, 2014 at 11:07 PM

Having 2 kids in NGHS during his time there, I had no issues with him.
The $40,000 Model U.N issue was wrong. His son was in that program and there should have been oversight that kept his involvement to a minimum. If that was the issue that drove him out, good. Even if there wasn’t any wrong doing, someone with a brain should have been able to see that, from the outside, it would appear shady.
As far as the coaches leaving the school, I think that has more to do with MDUSD than him.

Doctor J June 30, 2014 at 11:17 PM

@Proud, interesting take but several holes. Even if Steven Lawrence authorized Big John to receive the PFC money, the failure to account for it as income is serious with significant consequences. Regardless of the failure of the agenda and minutes to support your theory, it shows bad judgment by McM in taking such a large amount in a semi secret manner, especially after he spoke out against CVCHS — it gives the appearance of a payoff. Also remember that DR’s transfer to NHS was involuntary and in retaliation for his outspokenness against KMcC. DR only is getting back to Mount because he sued and embarrassed the Board twice a month in public comment. Last but not least, if Nellie threatened to transfer him, research would show her threats are hollow. McM could easily have called her bluff, and if she followed through, then submit his resignation. The abruptness of his resignation does not match rational behavior as you suggest. A year ago, Rose Lock engineered the involuntary transfer of several administrators, all of whom ended up in lower paying positions but the district was required to pay them at the higher rate of their former positions for a whole year because insufficient notice was given.

@Proud NHS Parent July 1, 2014 at 12:05 AM

The only people who would believe your fanciful “behind the scene story” would have to have an IQ about 10 points lower than Kim Kardashian .Is that your best shot?

What did you come up with for your teachers when you didn’t do your homework?

Ty July 1, 2014 at 12:12 AM

I was one of the kids who went to NORTHGATE. I was transferred there from diablo view and I knew no one. I’m not a rich kid and I live in concord not clayton or anything “prestigious”. The first couple years were hard cuz I felt like I had no one and that was my fault. I didn’t want to make new friends. If your kid is a smart kid and a good kid then he or she will do good at NORTHGATE or CLAYTON VALLEY. People misinterpret the kids that go to NORTHGATE as being kids who drink, do drugs and drink and drive recklessly. Well yes there are those kids but those kids are in every school and 99.9% of the time it’s the popular jocks or cheerleaders. I went to NORTHGATE and not once did drugs, or drink. I never did anything bad or wrong, wasn’t in trouble once. And that is thanks to the teachers. My parents always wanted to take me out of the music program cuz I got terrible grades. All my teachers that they had conferences with(all of them literally) said don’t. He’s going to find what he needs to do and what he wants to do in life, it’s his passion. You’d ruin him if you did. All the teachers even the horrible mean ones new what was best for me. I graduated my senior year luckily and got a 3.6 average. Spent all my lunch periods in Econ just for a B, because I had an F. So you jerks who say good now the rich kids have to go to cvhs, or they’re all drunk kids or druggies. Well every high school has those kids. If your kids smart and was razed right by there parents then they won’t be one of those kids. I’m a poor kid who went to NORTHGATE, couldn’t pay for the PFC or Music Boosters. But thanks to my teachers and the music teacher (Gregg Brown) who saw something in me and helped pay my way on the field trips. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be in college trying to better myself or become a better drummer. So shame on those ones that said that stereotyped NORTHGATE Kids as being rich kids who are druggies and alcoholics cuz I’m living proof that that’s not true and not everyone is the same. I’m proud to be forever a bronco and thanks to all the teacher and students that helped me feel like I belonged.
Tyler M. (Class 2011)

Mary July 1, 2014 at 6:36 AM

You’re right about Dr. J. I know who this is, and would not take anything they say seriously. They sound like they know what they’re talking about, but it’s just anger and an interest in looking for problems where non exist ( usually ).

Doctor J July 1, 2014 at 7:39 AM
@Mary July 1, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Are you the Mary that McMorris thanked publicly at graduation this year? For $ 40,000 he better be thanking you.

How I See It July 1, 2014 at 10:10 AM

What I have interpreted during McMorris’ time at Northgate is that he always thinks of the students first. His goal was to improve the educational experience for his students.

Regarding the district, he was heard saying “I will ask for forgiveness later” meaning if it was an improvement for the students, he would implement whatever the program anyway. This did not endear him to the district admin.

Regarding the teachers, McMorris put in place policies that held them accountable and made them work at improving what they did. How I see it, the teachers, particularly those imbedded in the Union, are under the impression that they already work beyond what they should be expected to do. Those of us in the private workforce have a hard time agreeing with some of the most vocal teachers who are complaining about McMorris and the amount of work they do, and believe they are not seeing the world in a realistic way. Some teachers have given up and are riding out their tenure. I hear of a teacher at Northgate, on their computer in front of the class, and not beginning class until 10 or 15 minutes after the start time. Daily. In what other job can you do this and not be fired? To be clear, I am not talking about all the teachers at Northgate. Just a select and vocal few.

As for the parents, McMorris saved their students from a disastrous situation in a district that was no help. McMorris directed the school as it should be – students first. Not just lip service as the district proclaims, but for real. He listened to the parents – which in my opinion, should have a voice in their students education.

McMorris is not the smartest, or the most diplomatic person in the world but he means well and the district would truly benefit from implementing some of his programs into their schools.

What will the district do with Northgate now? Northgate seems to be ready to walk away from MDUSD so this next step may be a doozy!

New Northgate Parent July 1, 2014 at 10:10 AM

So, Northgate has issues, CVCHS has issues….can someone offer a better option, with reasons to support, for a public school choice? Serious question here, as I have a son scheduled to enter Northgate in August…

@New Northgate Parent July 1, 2014 at 11:38 AM

My advice is to send your child to Northgate, get involved with the PFC, get to know your child’s teachers, attend MDUSD Board meetings, listen to the chatter about Northgate leaving MDUSD and make up your own mind about whether or not to support it. Northgate is a good school in the sense that it draws from an upscale neighborhood. Your child will be going to school with children from families that value education, will send their children to college, and are willing and able to contribute to the school so it can get the extras that other schools can’t. Unless you want to move to an even more upscale neighborhood like Lafayette or Danville, that’s the best you are going to do around here. Don’t let the Negative Nellies scare you away. Northgate is a good school.

ANNONeeemoose July 1, 2014 at 12:13 PM

No school is perfect. In fact, any time you get a bunch of any people together , it’s not perfect. Add to that the high emotion of people’s “children,” and it’s even more crazy. Just see what happens on volunteer boards at pre-schools, co-ops, anything related to kids. It’s a high charged environment. Then you add competing interests of staff, admin, teachers and the added complication of the local, state, federal mandates and the all mighty dollar. No place is perfect. YOU have to stay involved, advocate and keep in tune. That is all.

Ty July 1, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Were you talking about me Mary?

@New Northgate Parent July 1, 2014 at 2:14 PM

I just graduated from Northgate.
Despite popluar belief, Mr. McMorris cared about the students, including myself. He made it a point to help kids who were struggling amd would often pull me aside if I looked upset or had an issue. Northgate has a great staff and some amazing teachers.. Some of which include Mrs.
Starr, Mr. Muilenburg, Mr. Ceresa, Mr. Nunes, Ms. Spring, Mr. Tubio, Mr. Ahn, and Mrs. Conroy just to name a few.
It aslo has some amazing coaches and students that truly do care about eachother and the school.
My graduating class consiste of 20% graduating above a 4.00 which is amazing. We are hard working and yes like any other high school there are people who party, drink, and do drugs.. But as a whole they were the minority. Northgate gave me a great education and I’m very proud and so is my family.

Witness Testimony July 1, 2014 at 9:33 PM

Certain entitled, self-righteous Northgate PFC members should be ashamed of the carnage they wrought at Northgate and McMorris’ eventual undoing. I have witnessed repeated incidents where they expected favored treatment in exchange for their “service” as members of various boards culminating with this latest example where their children directly benefited from payouts made for Model UN.

Don’t be fooled by all the claims that everything was above board. The minutes of the March 21, 2013 board meeting is extremely elucidating. In it the PFC president claims that model UN funding comes from class sections. Not exactly true.

Thanks to the short-sighted, self-motivated decisions of these members and their unwillingness to step up and admit to grievous errors in judgement, I fear they’ve irreparably damaged the confidence the Northgate community once had in the PFC’s stewardship of nearly a half million dollar budget.

The richest joke yet, they think they have doomed Northgate to fail by resigning their positions from the board as well. Perhaps it will allow those who truly understand that volunteerism isn’t self serving to step up and do some good.

go somewhere else July 2, 2014 at 2:35 AM

There are hundreds of families trying to get their kids transferred in to Northgate every year. It boasts THE BEST scores and academics in the MDUSD…the best scores without giving kids cheat cheat cards to use on their final exams, etc., like some other high schools are doing. So if you don’t like it, then make the decision early on and transfer your kids out of the school. There are more than enough other families with kids to fill the seats. No school is perfect. So whine somewhere else.

k. saint July 2, 2014 at 6:14 PM

NG is in kind of a hard spot because when the community rightly boasts of its strong test scores etc…, it weakens some of its arguments for becoming its own district.

Weisenberger July 4, 2014 at 3:38 AM

Wow , some of the parents at Norhtgate have a lot of nerve. You really think you are above the other schools in the Mdusd District. I feel sorry for you. You are shallow.

Frustrated July 4, 2014 at 8:34 AM


Why not let the rest of us know who Dr J is. He/she acts like they have All the inside information. It is so easy to rant and rave anonymously. Dr J should have been exposed a long time ago

Dr. Jellyfinger® July 4, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Ahem! Once again I am compelled to point out that I am NOT… I repeat, NOT, Doctor J.

Not saying anything bad about him, just making sure there is no confusion as there was in the past when he made some asinine statement that others blamed me for. Not that I don’t make asinine statements…. actually I do it a lot, but I only wish to be responsible for my own asinine statements… actually I don’t really want to be responsible for anything, ever…….I mean I don’t want other people’s asinine statements to be attributed to me, period (real period, not “Obama Period” ).

Just look for the registered trademark symbol behind my name to be sure you are getting 100% genuine Jellyfinger.

disappointed July 8, 2014 at 10:32 PM

What decent principal with any ounce of integrity would even consider accepting a $20,000 year stipend for leading a student group? The PFC board members claim that he was going to grow a program, align it with common core standards, etc…. To them, I ask what did he accomplish? He had two years and $40,000! Shame on him for not focusing on what is best for all students, not twelve students….2 of whom are children of PFC board members. Northgate students deserve honesty from their leader which Mr. McMorris lacks. I certainly hope that Mr. Lawrence and Mr. McMorris do not even consider the idea of leading the movement for Walnut Creek schools to break away from MDUSD.

It could be worse July 9, 2014 at 12:16 AM

Consider yourself lucky. Over at CVCHS they puffed up the pay of the Executive Director (their equivalent of a principal) by letting him hire his wife for a part time job. Rumor is that she was paid $120,000/year for the part time job and that she may have been spending part of her time working at another job. And it was paid for with tax payer money, not PFC money. I heard her husband made her the director of “collaboration”. Makes what your guy did look like small potatoes, doesn’t it?

Doctor J July 9, 2014 at 3:13 PM

@Disappointed#45, I would add to your comment that McMorris already was being paid as Principal to align all programs with common core and grow all programs that add to the educational value to students. McMorris was also an unpaid VP of the PFC. Why haven’t the Bylaws been followed and audits made public ?

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