Lucas ready to take helm of Lake Forest School District

FELTON — During his 20 years in the Marine Corps, Steven Lucas said he developed a love of education. That love has eventually led him to the helm of the Lake Forest School District, where he’ll begin his tenure as superintendent come July.

“I really believe strongly that Lake Forest is the best choice,” Dr. Lucas said in a nod to the district’s motto. “I really envision, as a long-term goal, Lake Forest being the kind of place people associate with getting a great education. I think that’s already true. But I just hope to become a part of that, and contribute to it, whatever way that I can.”

He joins the district after 12 years as a teacher and administrator in Calvert County public schools in Maryland. He currently is the principal of Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, Maryland. His role at Lake Forest begins July 1.

Steven Lucas

Dr. Lucas, 56, grew up in Chicago in what he described as a “typically blue-collar, middle-class sort of family.”

“There wasn’t much of an emphasis on education, more of an emphasis on work,” he said. “Our family, we all kind of came out of the working industry: factories, restaurants, things like that. So, when I got out of high school, there was not a lot of expectation for me to go to college.”

Instead, he joined the Marines — but still ended up earning his undergraduate degree.

“I was on active duty, literally while on deployment taking classes any way that I could to accumulate enough credit so I could get a bachelor’s degree,” he noted. “That was really exciting — it was exciting for me, it was exciting for my family, because that just wasn’t something we did in my family.”

When he retired from the Marines in 2003, he knew he wanted to be a teacher, but noted that he lacked the traditional background for education.

“It was really tough for me to break in,” he said. “I really worked hard and did a lot of volunteer coaching, I worked in the system as a MJROTC teacher, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for.”

He enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Illinois, earning his master’s of education before moving down to southern Maryland to once more get into the classroom.

While he was teaching and coaching, he recognized right away that his skill set was made for leadership, he said. In the Marines, he’d served as drill instructor, he’d developed curriculum and just, generally, had opportunities to lead people, he noted.

With an eye on administration and leadership, he took postgraduate courses to gain administration certification and moved into an assistant principal role. He felt he could expand his scope and influence if he were to become principal, and started working toward that goal, he said.

“Four years later, the opportunity arose and I’ve been the principal of Calvert High School for the last four years,” he said. “Great school, great community, very close knit — a lot like Lake Forest. What attracted me to Lake Forest was that kind of community feel, everybody’s a Spartan sort of mentality — that really appealed to me.”

He was drawn to the district for its size, and the connection to the community, he explained.

During the interview process — which formally began in March — Dr. Lucas said he felt an immediate connection with the staff and community members he met along the way.

As he transitions into the role, he will visit the district periodically before his start next month, according to a news release. He and his wife are commuting between their Maryland and Lewes residences as they prepare to sell their Maryland home, he said.

But he comes into the district at a particularly challenging time. Since March, COVID-19 has radically changed how schools are educating students, and the impact of coronavirus remains to be fully seen before school begins again in the fall.

“There are a lot of challenges related to COVID-19, and challenges that are facing just education as a whole in general,” he said. “I think this is unique because I’m not going to really have the opportunity to stand fast and see how things go. I’ve got to jump right in and form some teams, and do a lot of research and see what is going to be the best actions that we can take.”

Much will depend on what happens at the state level with the Department of Education and how the state moves through the phases of recovery, he added.

“I think the best thing that we can do is be prepared and remain flexible to be able to respond to what conditions present themselves, because we have no way of being able to predict what the short-term future holds,” he continued.

Generally, though, as he takes on the top leadership position in the district, he hopes to create the ability for every student to achieve at the highest levels and have a variety of opportunities afforded to them upon graduation.

“I feel like that really should be our goal and our main objective: to produce graduates who have opportunities and they can make their own choices when they graduate,” he said. “They can choose to do what they want to do because we prepared them effectively.”