About an hour after the school day ends, Mountain View High School Principal Craig Luketich leaves a meeting to take a walk around the Mesa campus. He doesn’t get two steps outside the main office doors when he stops to chat with a handful of young men. He then waves to a few other students, says hello to a parent coming on campus, and makes his way into the center of the large school.
For nearly 20 years, Luketich has led the school, only the second principal in its history. And at the end of this school year, he’ll leave his sparse office and let another take the lead at one of the most successful high school campuses academically and athletically in the country.
Luketich said he learned early in his career at Mountain View that the core influence on the more than 3,300 students and the main factor in the school’s success, is its parents.
“You can’t paint it all in one brush. But the parents in our community are successful in their own right. When you have parents that teach their kids well the right kind of ethics, morals and values, they probably have those same qualities,” he said.
That’s the backbone of the school, he said.
“When we seek out and find great educators and put them in front of these students, we certainly should be producing success. We talk about this out loud, in meetings. We recognize the circumstances that exist in those ways that we should hold ourselves accountable,” he said.
That goes for everyone on campus, from the office staff to the custodians to the teachers, he pointed out. Everyone knows the goals of the school.
From the beginning, there’s been a mission to not only be the best school in the city, but claim top rankings in the state and accolades nationwide. The list is long, from the school’s Academic Decathlon team’s 16 visits to nationals, to the marching and performance bands’ and pom squad’s national rankings. Mountain View is a force to reckon with at all levels. The “Campus of Champions” motto sits high on the school’s website.
“If we limit our own expectations, anything less than those things nationally, then I don’t think we are being everything as educators,” he said.
The school has changed during the nearly two decades Luketich has been there, he said, at least on paper. While years ago the surrounding community boasted some of the highest socio-economic figures in the district, today, “that’s not true,” he said. In fact, about 40 percent of the students on campus qualify for free or reduced lunch based on family income levels.
“The challenge there, at least according to research about student learning and achievement, is there is a correlation between academics and socio-economic standing,” he said. “I don’t buy that. None of us do ... the kind of achievement that has come off this campus proves otherwise. I think the correlation is with the qualifications of parents who have contributed to their own success as they raise their children with those same values.”
Superintendent Mike Cowan praised Luketich’s work as principal in an earlier interview last month.
“Craig served valiantly for 20 years at Mountain View and is retiring. He will be coming back, working part-time for us for leadership development and working with our teachers who are interested in moving into administration,” Cowan said.
The district governing board approved Luketich’s successor last week, naming Greg Milbrandt as the new Toros principal. Milbrandt is now principal at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School.
So why leave now?
“I want to make sure all the initiatives and priorities we’ve tried to establish, that familiarity doesn’t get in the way of what we’re trying to pursue. I think it’s OK to have another pair of eyes here,” he said.
One thing Luketich is looking forward to is more time with his three grown children and his nine — soon-to-be 10 — grandchildren.
“We’re fortunate they’re all close by,” he said.
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