Past school superintendent saluted for vital 'vision'

  • Former Superintendent of Schools David Luke (right) was back at his old stomping ground, the December meeting of the Lumpkin County Board of Education, to accept the Pioneer in Education Award from Justin Old, Director of Pioneer RESA. The award is given to those whose efforts have gone above and beyond to support students and staff.
    Former Superintendent of Schools David Luke (right) was back at his old stomping ground, the December meeting of the Lumpkin County Board of Education, to accept the Pioneer in Education Award from Justin Old, Director of Pioneer RESA. The award is given to those whose efforts have gone above and beyond to support students and staff.
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Though retired from the school system, former Lumpkin County Superintendent of Schools David Luke received Pioneer RESA’s Pioneer in Education Award for 2019 during the county’s December Board of Education meeting.
“It’s an award created for those who put the school system first, and go above and beyond to support our students and staff,” said Justin Old, Director of Pioneer RESA. “It could be a bus driver, teacher, business, community member or a former superintendent such as David Luke. There are no parameters.”
Pioneer RESA serves 15 school systems in North Georgia, including Lumpkin County. It provides continuing education, staff development, consultative and other services for school board members and staff. Each county, plus presidents of colleges, universities and technical colleges in the region, plus one representative from the public libraries make up the governing board.
Member superintendents submit nominees for their systems.
“Our system’s leadership committee, including principals and central office leaders, nominated several people for the [award],” said Dr. Rob Brown, Lumpkin Superintendent. “The committee then voted on the nominees and Mr. Luke was the clear winner for this year's award.”
The BOE appointed Luke as superintendent in 1995, after their first choice resigned prior to completing his first term. At the time, he said, “We were at the bottom of state standard scores.”
Luke worked to bring the county’s academics up to a high level. He initiated the first AP (Advanced Placement) courses and added drama and music classes at the high school. In the last budget before he retired in 2004 he put money in place to start the high school JROTC program.
By the end of Luke’s tenure in 2004, Lumpkin consistently scored at or above the state average, and usually in the top five in the RESA region.
Luke also spent seven years dealing with facilities—or the need for them.
“There was no plan for either academics or facilities when I came in. My first task was to put a 15-person study committee on facilities in place, and in 1996 we brought the vision to the board,” he said.
Once the board approved the plan, Luke spearheaded the first ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) in the county to pay for facility improvements. It passed by 96 percent of the vote.
During Luke’s time as superintendent several ESPLOSTs were enacted. With this revenue he renovated Lumpkin County Elementary, changing from open to single classrooms; added several classrooms to Long Branch Elementary; purchased land for a new high school, which was occupied in 2001; built Blackburn Elementary; and added athletic facilities. With careful planning and help from Atlanta there were sufficient funds put aside to build a new central office.
“So when a new superintendent came in they were ready to go,” Luke said. “It was the same with the high school. When we built it we left room to add on classrooms.
“I tried to do as many things as I could to solve problems before I left. As a leader, I feel you need to look down the road and plan for the future. I tried to leave the system better than I found it, to do what I was asked and a little bit more. But I couldn’t have done it without a great board and a great community.”
Luke now serves as an educational consultant for Robertson Lois Roof Architects and Engineers (RLR).
Brown met Luke is his RLR role at a Georgia Schools Board Association conference.
“He was at the conference … and I was superintendent in Jeff Davis County at the time. He had ties to that area and introduced himself to me,” Brown said. “Since coming to Lumpkin County, I have gotten to know Mr. Luke much better as he is an active member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of which I am also a member.”
After 15 years in retirement from the school system, Luke “continued to invest himself in this community. He continues to be a highly respected leader in the Sunrise Rotary Club and has spent many Friday nights holding the yard markers on the football sidelines. Most recently Mr. Luke was involved in getting the new library built. As the chair of the library committee, Mr. Luke secured donations and headed up efforts to name rooms in the library. His work on the library is just an example of the work he does behind the scenes to better our community. … As a partner in education, Mr. Luke is always willing to support our school system monetarily, both personally and as a representative of RLR. In addition, Mr. Luke attends many school functions and serves as a mentor for school and system leaders. He is always willing to help and truly wants all of our schools to be successful.”
“David is held in high regard as both a person and an educator,” Old said. “I couldn’t be more proud he received the Pioneer in Education Award for Lumpkin County. He’s a first class person.”