April 9, 2007

Delano’s Locklear accepts position with Edina Schools

Following five successful years in Delano, Locklear leaves with mixed emotions

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

Most schools across the nation would be surprised if ABC Television showed up one day, wanting to film students participating in an online learning program for a Good Morning America documentary.

Not so at Delano High School.

Granted, the visit Thursday afternoon was a surprise, and the visiting camera crew was welcomed with open arms, but the visit was just another testament to the many successful programs and initiatives at Delano High School, thanks in large part to the efforts of its principal over the last five years, Dr. Bruce Locklear.

He is quick to give credit to the district’s staff and students for the continued success of the school, and said he has been blessed to have the “right people, at the right place, at the right time.”

That is why he said the decision to leave Delano was a hard one to make.

“The opportunity presented itself about a month and a half ago to look at the principalship at Edina High School – it was a very difficult decision, and it was a decision that came after much conversation with Edina, much prayer, and much discussion with my family,” Locklear said. “Delano has been my home for five years, and we just have such a great relationship with our students here and our staff, and it’s just been a tremendous journey over the last five years, so leaving here has been so hard.”

Several people from the community of Edina contacted Locklear, a little more than a month ago, and following conversations and interviews, he decided to accept the job.

“It’s a very, very good district, and is a district on the move,” he said about Edina. “We’re excited about the things we can do in Edina to help them become even better, as well.”

Delano High School has always been recognized as a school of excellence, and it’s been a school that’s always been well managed and well led, Locklear said. His last official day with Delano will be Saturday, June 30, when his contract is up.

‘Our staff is so good. They work so hard, and they truly care about our students,” he said. “It was just a collision of the right time, the right people, at the right place, and we’ve been able to do some absolutely tremendous things over the last five years.”

When he came to the Delano School District five years ago, one of the questions he asked was what can the district do for all learners within the school system – especially those who may not fit the traditional student mold.

As a result of that question, one of the things Locklear has been involved in is the School Within a School program, which presently has a 100 percent graduation rate for participating students.

“Mr. (David) Butterfass took an active role in that, and has done some tremendous things,” Locklear said.

The program is based on the idea to find and discover a student’s passion and tap into that, which ultimately leads them to be successful in the classroom. Three main components of the program include a rigorous academic schedule, employment, and community service,

“Over the last five years, they have planted literally thousands of trees,” Locklear said. “They helped move the old library to the new library location, and go once a month to Sharing and Caring hands to serve meals to the homeless.”

He said because of programs like this, students don’t mind coming to school anymore.

“They love coming, so that’s been a tremendous asset for us,” he said.

About three years ago, Locklear and his staff instituted The Delano Way, which is crucial to what students will face from employers when they hit “the real world.” It reads:

• Show up

• Show up on time

• Work hard

• Failure is not an option

“That creed drives who we are as a school,” Locklear said. “It drives everything that we do.”

Another large initiative has been the online learning program developed in the past few years that ABC was filming late last week.

“Five years ago, Delano had about 25 percent of its students failing classes,” Locklear said. “Thanks in large part to The Delano Way, the School Within a School program, and the online learning program, that number has been reduced to less than 4 percent. We feel real good about that.”

The accomplishments of the school have not gone unnoticed. Just this school year alone, Delano High School was the only high school in the state to receive the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation’s Spotlight on Education award, was one of four high schools in the state to be a part of the systemic reform high school movement as a model school that is doing things worthy of other schools’ interest, as well as one of 24 schools nationwide recognized as a national model school.

“It’s been a very active five years for us here, and our staff and students have been such an integral part of making things happen here,” Locklear said. “There’s no complacency here. Everyone works hard and everyone wants the best.”

Locklear grew up in the Carolinas, and graduated from the University of North Carolina with a masters degree in public administration. He also received a bachelor’s degree from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College.

“The accent is not from southern Minnesota, it’s from South Carolina,” he said with a laugh.

He met his wife, Dawn, at graduate school at the University of North Carolina. Dawn is a native of Inver Grove Heights, which led the couple to Minnesota.

They have two daughters, Brittany, who is a freshman at Georgetown College in Kentucky, and Bethany, who is a sophomore at Delano High Schools.

“We will live in the community; Bethany will graduate from Delano High School,” Locklear said.

Prior to coming to Delano, Locklear taught nine years, served as an assistant principal, athletic director, principal, and was the superintendent for two years at Owatanna.

“It was boring,” he said about that job. “You didn’t get to see kids. You didn’t get to see teachers, or do cool things like we’re doing today.”

From there, he became a professor at Southwest State University in Marshall. While there, he was approached by Dr. Howard Carlson, who was the superintendent at Delano at the time, about possibly coming to Delano.

“As soon as I walked on the campus, I knew it was the place to be,” Locklear said. And for the past five years, Locklear has certainly made himself at home.

“This high school, right now, is as good, if not better, than any high school in the country,” he said. “It’s a magical place. The community has been stellar here. It’s been a dream job for five years. It’s been a very difficult decision to leave, but it’s time.”

Locklear hopes his replacement will be someone who will come in with a vision, and who can relate well to kids.

He said any time someone leaves a position like this, there’s a certain amount of grieving that goes with that, both on the side of staff and students, as well as for the person leaving.

“You’re never ready for it,” he said. “It’s still emotional for me.”

Superintendent Dr. John Sweet said the position will be advertised, and said the school board will be looking for someone who will have a commitment to educational excellence, and have a successful record of establishing open collaboration with students, staff, parents, and other administrators to most effectively meet the learning needs of students.

“It’s a great career move for him to go to Edina,” said Supt. Dr. John Sweet. “It’s an outstanding high school. It’s a career move for him that would be hard to pass up. Hopefully, we’ll get someone to carry on the good tradition of Delano High School.”

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