As Oak Harbor Public Schools Superinten-dent Lance Gibbon surveyed staff members and asked others about filling the assistant superintendent position, one name kept coming up.
The name was Dwight Lundstrom.
“Either people just assumed Dwight was the logical choice, or were recommending that he (be considered),” Gibbon said. “Overwhelmingly, the feedback that I got is that he would be great in that position.”
On Monday, Gibbon officially appointed Lundstrom to the job, starting July 1.
Sandee Oehring will continue to serve as interim assistant superintendent until that date.
“I STILL have a lot of work to do here,” Lundstrom said, sitting in the front office at Oak Harbor High School.
Lundstrom has headed the school for the past 15 years and was assistant principal for two years before that. He and his wife moved to Oak Harbor in 1998 after he was hired as a math teacher and girls basketball coach.
But his island roots run even deeper.
As a Navy brat, he moved around frequently. As a young child in the late 1960s, he and his family lived in Oak Harbor for a short time. Then in the late 1980s, his father became commanding officer of patrol squadron 69 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
“I’ve had a connection to Oak Harbor my entire life,” he said.
AS A principal, his upbringing provides him an understanding of what many of the children are going through if their parents are in the military. He knows the difficulty of moving around so often and the toll it can take on education, so he tries to support those students as much as he can.
Connecting and interacting with his pupils is one of his favorite aspects of the jobs he’s held, he said, and added he’ll miss “the day-to-day stuff— knowing (students) by name and goofing around with them.”
Lundstrom’s close relationships with his students is evidence of the kind of dedication he brings to seeing them succeed, Gibbon said.
During his tenure as principal, Oak Harbor High School’s on-time graduation rate rose to the highest it has ever been at over 90 percent.
Lundstrom said one of his personal favorite successes has been adding so many career technical education classes so that students can find their niche interests.
“If kids put in the effort, we’ll get them where they want to be,” Lundstrom said. “The ones that break our hearts are the ones we can’t find a way to reach them. (It) doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying.”
DISCIPLINING STUDENTS is one of the most challenging parts of the job, he said.
Misbehavior is “a call for help,” he said, and it can be difficult to try and help the person while ensuring the behavior doesn’t continue.
“In the moment, they don’t really like you very well,” he said.
During his 15 years as principal, Lundstrom said he had to manage plenty of non-student-related issues as well. For example, one year the roof of the band room blew off in a wind storm. During construction, the school population was divided on two separate campuses.
At one point, the football stadium’s bleachers were condemned, and the school had to rent seating for home games.
However, these misfortunes provided him valuable experience overseeing millions of dollars worth of facility improvements.
“He, quite honestly, has more experience with construction than I do,” Gibbon said.
LUNDSTROM SAID he’s “not one to sit still” and is ready for new challenges. His inability to stay in place is apparent in his life outside of work as well.
He’s an avid outdoorsman, spending his free time mountain biking with his two Australian Shepherds at Fort Ebey State Park, skiing at Mount Baker or whitewater rafting. He even spent seven summers as a commercial rafting guide when he lived in Colorado.
The energy and focus required for all those sports are things he brings to his professional life.
“I think people that know me well enough know I love to keep moving forward,” he said.
WITH A move into the district’s administration office, Lundstrom said his main focus will be on improving equity and opportunities for students and staff.
There “are always barriers that can be removed,” he said.
Another focus of his will be safety — something he can’t ignore after a day he’ll never forget.
March 2, 2017, is “indelibly” marked in his mind after the school had to be evacuated following a bomb threat.
Though he hopes it’s never needed, he said he wants to ensure materials and training are in place so staff and students have things like blankets, bull horns and effective means of communication should something like that happen again.
LUNDSTROM SAID said he’s looking forward to using his experiences as a means of support at a more systemic level.
The timing was also right, as all three of his children have made their way through the Oak Harbor public school system.
It was important to him to stay in one place as his kids finished school, he said.
And having spent his career at the high school, he’s interested in learning more about elementary and intermediate education.
Although he might not be on a first-name basis with as many students, he said he’s sure he’ll find ways to connect with kids all over the district.
“It’s not about me,” Lundstrom said.
“It’s about what I can do for them.”