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New Ogden school superintendent excited for opportunity

By Harrison Epstein standard-Examiner - | Jul 12, 2021
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New Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen works in his office at the district building on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.

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New Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen sits in his office at the district building on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.

OGDEN — Luke Rasmussen is no stranger to hard work. For 20 years, the new Ogden School District superintendent has always striven to work hard at every step in his journey.

From his time as an adult education instructor and assistant football coach the same year he graduated from Weber State University (2001) to June 29 when he was sworn in to his new role leading Ogden schools, Rasmussen has kept his head down and done everything he could.

“I never worried about my next promotion or what’s next. I always just try to do the best job in the current job I’m in, and I think when you do that, things kind of take care of themselves,” he said.

Rasmussen believes that having a wide range of experiences, plus an affinity for working with people, has slowly prepared him for the work of being a superintendent.

His work with schools in Northern Utah started in 2001 serving as an adult education instructor with the Weber School District and assistant football coach at Northridge High and Fremont High — where he played football before going to Snow College and Weber State.

Rasmussen was in classrooms and working as a teacher up through 2009 when he moved into administration as the assistant principal at Northridge. After three years in that role, the next stop was a four-year stint as principal for the Knights before moving to OSD leading Ogden High from 2016-20.

“I spent a lot of time in schools. Being a high school principal in two different districts and getting that perspective has really, really helped me a lot,” he said. “You kind of deal with all aspects of education as a high school principal. You have community relationships, you have the three A’s — academics, arts, athletics — you have some big budget responsibilities, different student populations that you’re working with at all different levels.”

In 2019, Rasmussen was named the Utah Secondary Principal of the Year. After one year on the district level as the executive director of secondary education, he’s been handed the reins of a district with about 11,000 students. Ogden School District stands out as the only majority-Latino school district in the state of Utah, with 50.9% of students identifying as Hispanic.

“My whole educational career, I’ve really tried hard to be equitable and have that mindset and work with students. I love working with diverse students and diverse student populations. It’s one of the reasons that drew me to Ogden,” Rasmussen said. “People that know me and have worked with me understand that already and I think the people that haven’t worked with me will understand that — that I care about all students and all students being successful.”

As part of the plan to reach out to Latino students, the district previously announced the creation of a group that would focus on the needs of a diverse student population. The forming of a diversity, equity and inclusion working group is still in the works after being announced in May. Rasmussen reiterated the importance of such a group and said he hopes to have the members of the group determined in the coming weeks.

“I think continuing to strive to meet the needs of our students and get the community involved and build trust with our community is going to be huge,” Rasmussen said. “Building trust with parents, building trust with our community, having strong partnerships with community partners — it’s going to take a group effort to really make sure that we’re helping all of our students.”

Moving forward, Rasmussen pointed to the successes of the district’s strategic plan, NEXUS Elevated, which is considered one of the reasons the district was able to improve graduation rates from 68% in 2015-16 to 81.6% in 2020. NEXUS points to three “anchors” that lead to improvements in literacy and graduation: academic excellence, social emotional learning and talent development. On the heels of a school year that couldn’t escape the specter of COVID-19, Rasmussen believes that focusing on the mental health of students will be vital.

“If we can’t meet the social-emotional learning needs of students and help them grow, they have a hard time accessing learning. So we need to address those needs of our students,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m really proud of about Ogden, having been a part of Ogden for the last five years, is I think we’re kind of leading the way in that front as far as being creative in how we’re addressing those needs, tracking the data systematically, knowing where each student is at and where they need help and then providing those resources.”

Now that Rasmussen’s role is official, he can sort out his plans and figure out what to do to best build on the successes of his predecessor, Rich Nye. One of the things Rasmussen is most excited to do, he says, is get back into school buildings and meet with as many people as he can.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into all the schools, getting to meet with principals and work with them to see what support they need. I’m really excited about working with community partners and community groups to help meet the needs of our students,” he said.

Now, it’s just a matter of waiting until Aug. 26 when class is back in session.

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