Get to know our new principals: Jim Hays, Kal Phan

e-Connections Post School of Engineering and Sciences Hiram Johnson

Editor’s note: Great schools begin with great people, and Sacramento City Unified has no shortage of talented educators leading our campuses. The eConnection will be profiling principals new to their campuses this year to help our community get to know our administrative team. We kick off this occasional series today with two high school principals — Jim Hays at the School of Engineering and Sciences and Kal Phan at Hiram Johnson.

Jim Hays, Interim Principal, School of Engineering and Sciences

Age: 38

Hometown: Castro Valley

Very first job: “I was a batting cage consultant. Really, I was a clerk. But I thought of myself as a consultant. I got paid $4.25 an hour and I loved it.”

Education: UC Davis, Bachelor’s of Science, Managerial Economics; University of San Francisco, teaching credential and master’s degree

Previously: Hays served as Assistant Principal at C.K. McClatchy High School and Luther Burbank High School and taught math at Burbank for six years.

What I like best about being principal: “Meeting and greeting the kids as they walk in through the door and making those contacts.”

People would be surprised to know that…: ”I’m a closet ‘Star Wars’ fan. The new movie comes out December 18.”

2015-16 area of focus: ”I want to build the culture around social-emotional learning. They’ve done a lot of work here with the curriculum and I want to make sure it’s infused through all the grade levels so SES stays a nice place to learn.”

Of note: Hays’ first “real job” after graduating from UC Davis was as a staff accountant at a rubber stamp manufacturing company. “I hated it. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in any way. I realized that I like working with kids so I went back to school.”


Kal Phan, Interim Principal, Hiram Johnson High School

Age: 50

Hometown: Phan grew up in Laos and spent four years in a Thailand refugee camp before coming to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1979.

Education: UC Berkeley, Bachelor’s of Art in Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies; CSU East Bay, teaching credential and master’s degree; Mills College, doctorate

Previously: Phan served as Assistant Principal at Johnson and John F. Kennedy High School.

What I like best about being principal: “Seeing our students succeed. You can get no greater satisfaction in life than seeing them achieving their goals. That’s the greatest joy I can get.”

People would be surprised to know…: “I’m a very normal person. I’ve been unassuming at Johnson but now I’m displaying who I am.”

Of note: Phan had very little formal education when he arrived in Alabama at 15. “We lived in the jungle. We didn’t know America existed. You couldn’t dream about being in a city because we never saw a city.” After arriving in the US, school officials placed him in a third grade classroom with students half his age. “It was challenging. Other kids ridiculed me. But it gave me a chance to learn a few basic things in English and math.” His family later moved to Richmond, California, where Phan started high school. Through hard work, he was accepted into UC Berkeley three and a half years later. 

“Every step there was somebody who recognized something in me and supported me. Our kids need that kind of support and help. I’m trying to give back what was given to me.”