Blink fast if you want to see Lakota West High School’s leader in action.
Principal Elgin Card’s work day at one of Southwest Ohio’s largest high schools is a case study in perpetual motion focused by purpose.
Card has led Lakota West since 2012 – taking over for his mentor, long-time Lakota veteran Dick Hamilton who retired – and he is also an historical first for the Butler County school system.
Card didn’t - and still doesn’t - make a big deal about being the first African-American high school principal in Lakota’s 62-year-history.
“With it being Black History Month … people will talk to me from time to time about being a role model and being the first black high school principal,” said Card, 48, recently as he took a rare break from his hectic, daily schedule.
“For me I’m very lucky and blessed and I want to be a role model for African-American students but more importantly I feel like I’m a role model for everybody. I want to make sure that from the things I do — not only from my words but my actions — that kids understand that and the kids follow. It’s very important to lead by example and that’s what I try to do.”
A typical class bell break finds the former college football star forming a friendly, one-man wedge parting the crowd of students moving through Lakota West’s expansive main hall.
The school is one of the largest in Ohio with an enrollment of 2,200 students.
Card exchanges hellos, fist bumps, high fives, and encouragement while launching a barrage of “how’s it going?” and personal questions that show not only a remarkable memory but a caring attitude.
“How’d you do on that project?”
“Are things better?”
“Didn’t I tell you, you’d make it?”
The banter includes an occasional admonishment. When asked, one student who violated school policy complained, “you got me suspended.”
Card’s quick retort: “You got yourself suspended.”
“Relationships are so important and that’s what I base it (leadership) on. If kids know you care about them, they will do what you ask them to do and they will work even harder for you,” Card said.
Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller is halfway through his first year as leader of the 16,500-student district, but being a veteran of Ohio public education, he knows what he sees and likes in Card’s leadership.
“He has a unique style that helps to create a personal connection with his students and staff, building relationships with each and promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the school,” Miller said.
“He is an incredibly dedicated leader, creating a community that encourages both staff and students to work hard in an effort to achieve their best, both academically and personally.”
VIDEO: See Lakota West High School Principal Elgin Card and his fast-paced style of leadership @journal-news.com
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