PLAIN CITY -- Fremont High Principal Ray Long walked into his school's gymnasium, getting applause and a standing ovation that would make a rock star blush.
Filling the bleachers were the school's more than 1,700 students. Standing on the sides were teachers and administrators. In folding chairs facing the crowd were officials from Weber School District, and Karen Huntsman, on hand to congratulate Long, the only high school principal statewide to win a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education, which comes with a crystal obelisk, a check for $10,000 and a lifetime of bragging rights.
But Long isn't the bragging type.
"It's all about the kids," he said. "These kids at Fremont are some of the finest you will find anywhere, and these teachers work hard for me and for the kids. This award is a dream come true, and it's something you never expect."
Long has been Fremont High's principal for three years and served as assistant principal before that. Between his Fremont assignments, he was Wahlquist Middle School's principal.
In various capacities, he has worked about a decade for the district.
"I've always had great leadership from the district, and good mentors," Long said. "I've gotten great support from the district, the teachers, some of the best secretaries around."
Linda Thomas, the secretary who nominated Long, is now retired.
"He is honestly one of a kind," she said. "I was impressed from the day he came to our school as an intern, because of his energy, his integrity, his abilities and dedication.
"He really set the bar high, knowing and caring about every student. He never misses any activity for the school, from orchestra concerts to football games to debate tournaments. He is there to see the kids, and he wants them to see him and know their administration cares."
Thomas said Long was always open to any suggestion people made about improving the educational experience.
"He is a principal 24/7. I would often get emails from him at 2 or 3 in the morning. He doesn't sleep. He carries a huge load on those shoulders, and he doesn't complain.
"I would take a bullet for him. A lot of people would."
Long grew up in the Southeast, and his early years were shaped by racial discrimination, according to his Huntsman biography.
Rather than harbor resentment, Long made a choice to use his life to create an environment of positive change, guided by compassion, high expectations, fairness and equality.
Long had a 20-year Air Force career, then worked his way through college. His education philosophy, he said, is to show students respect and to "promote student learning."
Long said he'll attend the official awards ceremony. He doesn't expect to have the check for long, though.
"I think my wife and kids already have it spent," he said with a laugh.
"My wife, Kara, and my kids have supported me. As a high school principal, you go to a lot of activities. I think we will be going somewhere to spend time as a family."