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Mona Merlo to Lead New Sato Academy

Mona Merlo appointed Principal of new Sato Academy Mona Merlo, the tenth child in a family of 12, grew up in a town of 600 people in rural South Dakota. The girl who graduated in a class of 24 students and drove tractors during her summer vacations could never have imagined that she would become principal of an innovative small high school in the third largest school district in California.

Recently she was appointed as the first principal of Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science, which is adjacent to Cal State Long Beach, and is modeled after the highly-regarded CAMS high school located on the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus. The new school is being launched to meet growing interest in intensive math/science programs that lead to high-demand jobs of the future.

Sato Academy is the second small high school launched by the district in three years, with two more coming in the next several years. McBride High was opened in 2013, and Browning High is under construction, set to open in fall of 2016. The current Jordan Plus Academy is also slated for conversion to a small high school in the future.

Sato Academy will open on the Hill Classical Middle School campus this fall. The campus will be called Hill/Sato, as the last class of eighth grade Hill students will complete their final year of middle school on half of the campus while the first freshman class of Sato will occupy the other half of the campus.

At the end of next school year, the middle school will close and Sato Academy will add 175 ninth graders each year until it is a 9-12 high school with about 700 students.

“Sato Academy will provide students with a curriculum incorporating the latest technology for both engineering and biomedical sciences,” said Merlo.

"Students will have many opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to real world problem solving,” she added. “Sato will also be partnering with CSULB to support students in their chosen pathways, providing access to many resources on the college campus.”

An educator for 27 years, this is Merlo’s first appointment as a principal. She has served as an assistant principal at Jordan, Lakewood and Wilson high schools, where she is credited with helping increase the pass rate for algebra and other math courses.

She also served as an interim Linked Learning grant coordinator and a GEAR UP grant facilitator with a focus on math intervention programs for middle and high school students.

Before moving into administration, Merlo was a math department chair at multiple schools including Stanford Middle School in Long Beach.

Her teaching experiences range from working in Marion, South Dakota to Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Solana Beach, California before coming to Long Beach. She has extensive experience teaching all math courses from sixth grade math to pre-calculus.

Merlo earned her master’s degree in education/ administration at Azusa Pacific University and her bachelor’s degree at Black Hills State University in South Dakota.