Lane Stratton, Lakeview High School’s principal, didn’t spend time in a military uniform, but grew up in a military family; so when he was surprised with a military award at a recent assembly he knew that the recognition was meaningful.
Stratton was given a plaque and certificate recognizing Lakeview High School with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve award. The award is in recognition of Stratton’s dedication to assuring that a member of the school staff, currently enlisted in the National Guard, would continue to have employment at LHS during and after military deployment.
James Bowers, a first-year teacher at LHS last year, was the individual who secretly nominated Stratton for the award. Bowers is not instructing at LHS this year, as his unit is being deployed to Africa, according to Stratton. Before departing for service, Bowers arrived at the school’s regular quarterly general assembly last week to surprise Stratton with the award.
Once Stratton knew that Bowers would be deployed for an extended period last school year, he assured Bowers that his job would be waiting for him upon his return, and worked with Bowers to arrange alternatives. A long-term substitute was hired for this school year to cover Bowers’ duties, who will relinquish the role next school year back to Bowers.
“Through the process he and I worked through things and I told him he still has a job here when he comes back,” said Stratton. “I want him to be a teacher and a coach here. I didn’t know it, but he nominated me and they presented the award during our assembly.”
Stratton, never one to self-promote much, said he would have likely turned down the award had he known in advance, but was gracious in accepting the surprise recognition during the assembly. He has not decided yet whether to display the award in his office, or perhaps add it near another military display in the main halls of LHS that honors a graduate who died in service during the Iraq War – Jessica Ellis.
“Most importantly, for me it is knowing that the staff member felt valued under my leadership,” said Stratton. “I think the military is a lot like public education in that at times we get a black eye for one reason or another, so it’s neat for two entities to come together and show support. I am excited for the young man, and excited for him to come back and be a role model for our students too.”
Lakeview High School has had difficulty some years in recruiting and retaining enough teachers for the school year, which places a burden on staff in an area where there are often few substitutes available. Even one teacher becoming sick or leaving can create a difficult domino effect in staffing shortages, and while Stratton recognized this as a potential issue he was willing to work with Bowers’ military obligations.
“For sure it can create a burden, but it has been a good deal,” added Stratton. “We were able to work with Mr. Bowers before he left, it was the best transition we could get. He knew he was being deployed pretty early last year so we were able to find a long-term sub with plenty of time.”