Clark named North Dakota Principal of Year
West Fargo High School principal Gary Clark has been named North Dakota's High School Principal of the Year. He was recognized at a dinner in his honor last Tuesday evening at Spitfire Bar and Grill in West Fargo, and congratulated with a standing ovation during the school board meeting on May 11.
"I am humbled by the award, and yet very honored, because it is a reflection on the student body and the great staff we have at West Fargo High School," Clark said.
He attributes the high school's success rate to a combination of the hard work and efforts of the students and staff, along with the administration and building personnel, along with a very supportive community. He is grateful for the team of assistant principals, activity director, and office staff who help make his job easier.
When Clark first began teaching at West Fargo High School in the fall of 1971, August Keller was superintendent of West Fargo schools, and the high school was housed in the building that is now known as the Lodoen Education Center. One of Clark's favorite classes he taught that first year was a class called Present Day Problems, often referred to by those who remember it as P.D.P.
"It was a fun class with just seniors. I was so wet behind the ears that I have to shudder and laugh. Every once in a while, I run into parents who remember the class, and we laugh about it together," Clark said.
In 1981, Clark was appointed as an assistant principal on a part-time basis, while continuing to teach. By then, Marvin Leidal was superintendent and Mike Drew was principal at West Fargo High. DeWitt Batterberry and Clark served together as assistant principals, and Dale Sumers was the athletic director.
In 1987, when the staff moved into the new high school at its current location on Ninth Street, Clark became a full-time principal, and in the fall of 1998, he was appointed as the principal at West Fargo High. Over the years, Clark has seen a lot of changes as he has watched the district grow.
"It's exciting to see the transformation as our school district has grown, not only in numbers, but in quality and depth. Our reputation used to be that of a poor school district. Now we are respected in the community, and across the state," Clark reflects.
Clark is proud of the many innovative steps West Fargo High School has taken to help challenge the students to perform at their best and attain high goals. He has been a proponent for continuing to add more Advanced Placement and Dual Credit classes to challenge students to get a head start on earning college credits while still in high school.
He and his staff have also concentrated on helping students who struggle academically, and have initiated programs to help improve the graduation rate. During the 2007-2008 school year, the high school's Intervention Team developed the Senior High Alternative Center (SHAC) to help students who were struggling to meet graduation requirements. This spring the program's success will be marked by the first graduation of a student who has completed the SHAC program.
In their selection of this year's principal of the year, the North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals commended Clark for being a strong advocate of collaborative leadership as he helped guide his school through the transitional phases of replacing the traditional seven-period school day with a modified block schedule. Clark is also committed to helping students in the district reach their goal of academic growth with the district's "Goal 2011" guidelines.
Clark graduated from Valley City State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971. In 1983, he completed his Master in Educational Administration degree from North Dakota State University, and earned a Specialists Degree in Educational Administration degree from NDSU in 1989. He and his wife, Carol, and their family live in Horace, N.D.
"I went into education because I wanted to work with kids. I still love working with kids. It's my passion. The students keep you young," Clark said.