OGDEN — Ogden High School Principal Luke Rasmussen was named one of the 2019 Utah Secondary Principals of the Year.
After administrators from across the state are nominated for the award, the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals selects one junior high and one high school principal of the year. The UASSP then interviews and selects which one will represent Utah in the National Association of Secondary School Principals competition for National Principal of the Year.
Rasmussen is up against Lava Ridge Intermediate School Principal Kaylyn Gubler for the honor and as of the afternoon of Tuesday, the winner hadn’t been announced.
Rasmussen said it’s nice to be recognized for hard work but attributes his success to his faculty, students and community.
“I really enjoy working with my faculty and community and that’s what I see this as,” he said. “It’s a reflection of all their work because it’s definitely a team effort.”
Shauna Haney works with Rasmussen as an assistant principal at Ogden High School, but she also worked with him while he was employed at the Davis School District. She said he has consistently built a culture of trust among school faculty the entire time she has known him.
“He has a way about him,” she said. “He makes other people feel important and he makes you want to do better.”
Rasmussen attended Weber State University and has a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, according to the district. He also previously sat on the legislative board for the UASSP.
Rasmussen worked in the Davis School District’s program for troubled youth and at Northridge High School as a P.E. teacher, assistant principal and then principal. He came to Ogden High at the start of the 2016-17 school year.
Rasmussen said working with youth in crisis taught him behavior and classroom management skills.
“Culture trumps strategy,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of people and empower people to be the best they can be. If you focus on that in your school culture a lot of other things fall into place.”
Ogden High senior Jennifer Mariano got to know her principal at the beginning of the ongoing school year when she and her sister weren’t doing well in their classes. They met with Rasmussen and he eventually gained their trust as well as their mother’s.
“He started helping us out in classes, whether it was helping us with an essay or just starting it,” she said. “He helps us with the smallest things and it really motivates us to come to school.”
In fact, assistant principal Heather Gerrard said Rasmussen probably knows every student’s name.
“He treats them as an individual, as a person, and you can tell they really respond to that,” she said.
Rasmussen said it’s easy to get caught up in administrative duties that aren’t important but he tries to be visible in classrooms, take care of people and focus on learning.
This appears to be working well, at least by one metric. The four-year graduation rate went from 75.8 percent in 2015-16 to 82.3 in 2016-17, according to a statewide school accountability report released in January.
Haney said Rasmussen works hard because he wants all students to graduate and have the skills they need to be successful.
“He has a way of challenging you to be your best self,” she said. “It makes you want to work harder and somehow be a better person.”
This is the second year in a row the Ogden School District has had one of its administrators named Utah Secondary Principal of the Year. Ben Lomond High School Principal Dale Wilkinson won in 2018, though he wasn’t selected to compete nationally.
The Principal of the Year who goes to nationals from every state receives an underwritten McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders course, according to the NASSP website.
Green Canyon High School Assistant Principal Shane Jones also won this year and will represent the state in the Assistant Principal of the Year competition.