By Madison Carver –
Last year, our principal of 20 years, Dr. Mike Wortman, retired. This year, we are ushering in a new principal: former associate principal Mark Larson.
Larson has many goals for our school, and he will always make time for his students. He was generous enough to give us some of his time for an interview.
What is your number one goal for your first year as principal?
That’s a great question. The number one goal that I have for our students here at Lincoln High overall is for all students to feel like they have what they need to achieve their full potential. And I think we are addressing a couple things this first year with that.
Number one is that we are making sure that the instruction that goes on inside the classroom every day is the best it can possibly be. Our teachers are working very hard in their planning and their learning to make sure that they are providing our kids every day with top notch instruction.
The other thing that is important to me is providing students with the supports that they need to be successful outside the classroom, whether that be tutoring or mental health supports or any other supports that they need to be able to be successful. We want to be able to provide those if we can.
So we are building partnerships, relationships with community organizations putting things together like Get Linked at the Lighthouse to provide opportunities for them to get the help that they need.
The third thing is to provide students with hope. And we want to engage kids and there are a lot of different things that go into that. We want kids to feel like they have buy-in with what’s going on in school. We want them to feel connected. Last week was Homecoming week and that is a great example of that. Yes, the academics of school are important, but also the social aspect of school – feeling connected, all kids finding a place in school – is important. So clubs is included in that, assemblies, athletics, extracurricular activities. Helping kids see where they’re gifted and giving them an opportunity to be successful and connected to school is important.
And then helping them understand and see the value that school has in helping them achieve their potential and what they’re going to do after high school.
So, the three things that were really focusing on this year are instruction, student support, and hope or engagement.
How connected do you feel you are with your students?
I would hope the kids feel that I’m that I’m pretty connected. You know I think one of the unique things about me is that I am a younger principal, so I feel like have a pretty good connection with what’s going on within youth culture and have a pretty good understanding of what kids are going through, what needs they have.
You know relationship is something that’s really important to me. I really pride myself on taking time to get to know kids. We have about 1,900 kids here, and I don’t know everybody’s name, but I’m working at it. And that’s something that is important to me – building those relationships with kids.
What makes a student stick out to you whether positive or negative?
I think positively, I look for students who are leaders. There are certain students within our student body who other students just look to, whether that be positively or negatively, but there are certain kids who have personalities that just attract people. So when I look at kids who stick out to me, I’m really looking at those kids to be able to help kids shape the culture at Lincoln High, whether that’s in the classroom or in the hallway or with their behavior. And so I really like students who use that leadership role or that responsibility they have in a positive way to impact others.
The other thing that really sticks out to me is kids who have empathy and who are includers. Here at Lincoln High we have a lot of students who are great at seeing needs that their friends have and that their peers have and doing the best they can to meet those needs or to connect them to places where their friends can have those needs met.
The other thing that sticks out to me, kind of on the opposite end on the negative side, is kids who are easily influenced. All kids make mistakes. We all learn high school is a time when we’re all figuring out who we are and what we’re about. But it’s obvious to me that there are kids who are really looking to their peers for justification, for who they are, and that’s a dangerous place for a teenager to be when they’re really seeking out approval from their peers and are going to do things based on what their peers think. So what I think is really positive, and what I really want, is for our kids to be confident enough in who they are and what they believe that they can be who they are and they can stick up for themselves.
How do you plan to run the school. Any new ideas?
You know I don’t know if I have any earth shattering ideas on how to run the school. I learned a lot of things from Dr. Wortman. I talked about relationships already. I think being visible is really important and being somebody that people feel like they can approach, that they can come to with questions or concerns, and then being responsive to those questions and concerns. I think is really important.
I think I see my role as somebody who is helping to set the vision of what Lincoln I can be. We take input from students and from the community and from staff on that, and we look at data to figure out where we are and where we should be going. And then my job is to make sure with all the stuff going on that we are still pointed in that direction. That staff and students and the community are all on the same page. That’s where I see my role.
Why did you want to become principal?
This job was definitely more about place than position for me. There were some other principal jobs that were open at the same time this place was, and I was not interested in being a principal anywhere else. I love Lincoln High. I love the students here, I love the staff here, and I love the community here. I think because of that I wanted to be a principal here, because I wanted to see the kids here, the staff here and see this building become what it could be.
It already is a great school, but it has the potential to be even a greater school I believe.
How did you feel when you heard you got the job?
I think I was just so excited because I knew that this was going to be a place that I wanted to be, and that I was connected to, and that I wanted to be at for a really long time. So when I found out I was going to be the principal here, I was excited to get to work.
But I was also excited to know that this was going to be the job that hopefully I’ll have for a really long time. To just know that and to be able to get started with that process was really exciting.