Guest Blog: The Road to Becoming National Principal of the Year by Dr. Lucas Clamp

I was born and raised in the home of an educator. Teaching and educational leadership were on display daily, as my mother Lexie was my first-grade teacher, then elementary principal, middle school principal and retired as school superintendent.  Her model of love and interaction with students, faculty and the community provided a strong example of how following your passion into a career can be so fulfilling.

Growing up, I was blessed to have amazing teachers along the way. Those experiences solidified my calling into the field of education and lead to me taking a Teacher Cadet course as a senior in high school.  I followed God’s call and have been honored to serve in public education since 2002.

In 2006 I was chosen as Assistant Principal at Lexington High School where I began leading full time in educational administration. I was honored to join such a progressive, innovative district. After four years in the classroom at Irmo High School as a science teacher, I knew my career was leading into school-based administration, but being selected as an Assistant Principal at such an accomplished school with sound leadership, allowed me time to grow and learn as a leader.

Creig Tyler, the principal that hired me for the position, served as a mentor and guide during the times I served at Lexington High. He was a leader who empowered his team to make decisions in the best interest of students while also providing timely feedback for growth and development. The team I served on, with six other assistant principals were seasoned in leadership and I was able to model some of their techniques as I developed my own.  This position laid the groundwork to be considered for the principalship at River Bluff and I believe was a true turning point in my career.  

I served the students and faculty at Lexington High for five years until being chosen among a national search to be the founding Principal of River Bluff High School in 2011.  I was tasked with thinking and leading in a new direction as myself, along with other leaders, designed a school of the future, uniquely equipped with attributes to provide students a personalized learning experience.  

An early partnership with EL Education gave us access to a learning design created to empower students to lead their own learning while engaged in experiences that would contribute to a better world through service and the intentional development of their character.  Now 7 years later, River Bluff is a national leader in Flexible Scheduling and Innovative School Design. 

My educational philosophy first begins with a belief that solidifying a relationship with students and staff will create a condition for progress.  Relationships are the foundation for leadership and learning. I also believe that all students deserve an equitable education regardless of their circumstance, and it is our responsibility as public educators to engage with them to discern their needs and then design learning experiences to equip and empower them to lead their own learning.  Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and engaging in real work for a real audience is a belief we have to allow students to have experiences that will lead to their contribution to a better world.

At River Bluff, we offer over 25 clubs and organizations and dozens of sport and fine art teams for our students to get involved.  Once students have a place to serve and share their voice, we feel their contributions rise. We follow five Habits of Scholarship – our academic and social behaviors: Personal Responsibility, Growth Mindset, Collaboration and Relationships, Excellence and Citizenship. These guide our decisions and interactions within one another.   

We prioritize and believe in the leadership development of students and staff and River Bluff.  In six years, 10 staff members have been promoted to advanced positions in leadership to include: two assistant principals to principal, athletic director to director of athletics for the district, five teachers promoted to assistant principal and the other to district level coordinators.  A student at River Bluff founded a non – profit Student Voice and others are leaders in the colleges and universities.

Relationships with teachers and staff members are key to the success of our school.  Knowing each staff member individually allows for one to empower them to create conditions for learning for students.  I also strive to create an environment for adults to have fun such as rafting down the Saluda River, attending cooking classes, competing with one another in field day activities and attempting to escape from a local Escape Room. 

I believe that above all, it is critical as a leader to listen.  My door is always open and I allow for every opportunity to listen and support our team through personal and professional growth and development.  

What I enjoy most of being a principal is seeing both students and staff try something new or learn something for the first time and thrive.  Serving in a capacity to create conditions for success, I often get to observe students and staff taking academic risks that soon return huge dividends in their growth and development.  It is pure joy to engage with teenagers every day and as no two days are alike, it is easy to get to go to work where you genuinely love what you do.

River Bluff’s motto, “Work hard. Get smart. Do good.” is a vision for my work and above all, I aim to lead with love and compassion. With state and national recognition in the arts, athletics, and academics, River Bluff, South Carolina’s 2019 Palmetto’s Finest High School, is leading the way to transform public education.