LAKEVIEW — Lakeview High School Principal Gary Jensen took center stage at Monday evening’s meeting of the Lakeview Community Schools Board of Education.
Jensen learned earlier this month he had taken top honors in this year’s Principal of the Year competition. The award is presented annually by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP).
At Monday’s meeting, Jensen’s achievement was recognized by board members and Colin Ripmaster, associate director of the MASSP.
“(Jensen) is a worthy candidate for this honor,” Ripmaster said. “After being thrust into the principal’s position we saw he had a special gift for rebuilding. In large part it’s because of Gary’s leadership that this school turned around in just three short years.”
When Jensen took the principal’s post, the high school was performing so poorly in state standardized testing that it had been categorized as an “at risk” school. In the past three years, under Jensen’s leadership, the school has become not only a model school, but one of the highest performing.
School Board President Edward Jonaitis praised Jensen for his efforts.
“On behalf of the board, we’re pretty impressed that our high school three years ago was one of the lowest achieving schools and now it’s one of the highest in our ISD (intermediate school district),” Jonaitis said.
For his part, Jensen gives credit for the school’s turnaround to his staff, both teachers and fellow administrators.
“I give all the credit to my team,” Jensen said.
Ripmaster noted that Jensen will represent the entire state on the national level at the Principal of the Year competition. Ripmaster added that he considered Jensen and “educational visionary.”
“It was through his example that he has laid a strong foundation for growth and achievement,” Ripmaster said.
Board members also heard from high school teacher and student adviser Kim Simpson, who helps administer the Cool To Be Kind program at the high school. The program, as laid out by several of Simpson’s students, is designed to help foster a spirit of support and cooperation between students at the school.
Student members of the group try to come up with ideas to promote “good deeds” among the student body. In the past year, students have performed random good deeds such as standing outside school doors on Valentine’s Day handing out Hershey kisses and hugs. A similar event also was held on St. Patrick’s Day.
The group provides its own funding through sponsorship of activities such as dances and other activities.
Members have gone beyond the high school, taking their presentation to Lakeview Middle School, where they spoke with students there who will be entering high school next fall. The “ice breaker” presentation let middle school students know that there would be students at the high school willing to help them make the adjustment, both academically and socially.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with these guys,” Simpson said. “We look forward to making the climate even better here at Lakeview High School. It’s a great climate right now, but there are always ways you can improve.”
In other business, Hamlin noted that four school board positions will be up for grabs in the fall election — three for six-year terms and one for a four-year term.