Ben Lomond Principal Dale Wilkinson helps his students succeed

Wednesday , January 31, 2018 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

This is a success story — a story about someone who overcame doubt and hardship to achieve excellence.

But for once, it is not a story about a president, an artist or an athlete.

It is a story about an Ogden educator, Dale Wilkinson.

  • RELATED: “Ben Lomond High principal wins state recognition as a Principal of the Year”

The Utah Association of Secondary School Principals named Wilkinson of its three top principals for 2018. He deserves it.

Because he’s building a new culture at Ben Lomond.

  • RELATED: “Ben Lomond High student goes from dropout to success through Achievement Club”

Wilkinson didn’t set out to become an educator. He originally sold insurance, working for his father.

Then his father sold the company, forcing Wilkinson to find a new career.

A friend asked if he might be interested in becoming an assistant basketball coach at Ogden High School. His mother suggested teaching.

Basketball appealed to him. Teaching, not so much.

“I had no intention of being an educator,” Wilkinson told Sergio Martinez-Beltran, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

He took a teaching job at Sand Ridge Junior High and joined the Tigers’ coaching staff. A year later, he became part of the faculty at Ogden High.

As he worked his way up the ladder, Wilkinson said he gained valuable insights as principal at Odyssey Elementary, in central Ogden.

“I found out when I went to the elementary (school) that I understood very little about student behavior, teaching, discipline,” Wilkinson told Beltran. “I’m a proponent that every administrator should spend some time on elementary (schools).”

By his own admission, Wilkinson doesn’t enjoy conflict. So his education continued as an assistant high school principal, where he dealt with “a lot of conflict every single day,” he told Martinez-Beltran.

“It took me two years for an angry parent or an angry student (to) not ruin my day,” Wilkinson said.

It all prepared him for Ben Lomond, where in 2013, he inherited a big, struggling school with low test scores and achievement rates.

Ben Lomond finished with a 77 percent graduation rate in 2015, 7 points behind the state. It held nearly steady at 76 percent in 2016.

But in 2017, 83 percent of Ben Lomond seniors graduated.

  • RELATED: “Ogden graduation rate jumps but still tied for last among Utah districts”

“We do not lower the bar to help kids graduate but rather provide every intervention to help them meet the mark,” Wilkinson said. “We have worked to improve instruction so kids better understand the content they are learning and feel better about being in school.”

The approach is working. Wilkinson, however, says he’s only applying what he’s learned over the course of a 30-year career.

“I’ve had an incredible career, I’ve had incredible mentors, I’ve made great friends, I’ve learned so much about people and about compassion,” Wilkinson said. “Any good thing that I’ve had in my career is because of the people around me.”

Principal Dale Wilkinson overcame hardship to achieve success — and it’s his students who benefit.

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