This Midlands principal was just named 2019 National Principal of the Year

The principal of River Bluff High School in Lexington was named the 2019 School Principal of the Year on Thursday morning.

Lucas Clamp, who was selected as the founding principal of River Bluff in 2011, got the news at a surprise pep rally with hundreds of students and Gov. Henry McMaster and state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.

The surprise pep rally for River Bluff High School Principal Lucas Clamp, who is the 2019 NASSP School Principal of the Year. Mike Burgess

Clamp is being honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He is the second Lexington County school principal to receive the title in two years. In 2018, Chapin High School Principal Akil Ross earned the distinction.

What made Clamp stand out to the panel of judges was his vision for a hands-on, project-based learning model, according to a news release. River Bluff was the first high school in South Carolina to adopt what’s known as EL Education. This method prioritizes the relationships between students and teachers and uses weekly small group meetings called CREWs — creating relationships, exploring within — to foster that closeness.

Judge Annette E. Wallace called Clamp “a champion for community building and for groups that are often disenfranchised — which can be a challenge for principals serving communities with wide economic diversity,” according to a release from the principals association.

The Lexington District 1 school district encompasses 30 schools, almost 4,000 employees and 26,800 students. It is one of the fastest-growing school districts in South Carolina, adding an average of 505 students per year.

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Clamp encouraged teachers at River Bluff to curate educational experiences for students of color, with a particular emphasis on black students, the release said. Over three years, students’ scores have risen as a result.

In 2017, former Chapin High School Principal Ross won the award. Along with the national honor, Ross was state high school principal of the year in 2016 and a member of The State newspaper’s 20 under 40 class for 2017.

A selection panel member for the national principal award called Ross “an agent of infectious change,” and the district superintendent at the time said Ross was “a great visionary.” In February Ross became Lexington-Richland 5’s director of secondary education.

Before becoming principal at River Bluff, Clamp was an assistant principal, a chemistry and environmental science teacher and a football and baseball coach. He also served as dean of studies for smaller learning communities and developed development tools and curriculum for students and staff.

Clamp earned a bachelors in science from Clemson University. He also holds a masters degree, an educational specialist degree in educational administration and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, all from USC. He also graduated from the South Carolina State Department of Education Developing Aspiring Principals Program.

The national principal of the year program honors standout middle and high school principals “who have made exemplary contributions to their profession and to their students’ learning,” the news release from the principals association said. One principal is selected from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and those nominees are narrowed down to three finalists, from which the winner is chosen.

Clamp will be eligible to enroll in an online leadership program because of the honor.

Correction, Oct. 26, 2018: This article previously stated River Bluff High School was the first EL school in South Carolina. River Bluff High School is the first EL high school in the state.

David Travis Bland contributed to reporting.

Cueto can be reached at 803-771-8621, @isabellacueto
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