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A TRIBUTE: Olympic Heights Faculty, Staff, Students, and Community Say “Thank You” to Mr. Dave Clark

Mr.+Dave+Clark+served+as+Olympic+Heights+principal+from+2011+through+2018.
Mr. Dave Clark served as Olympic Heights principal from 2011 through 2018.

Mr. Dave Clark served as Olympic Heights principal from 2011 through 2018.

Mr. Dave Clark served as Olympic Heights principal from 2011 through 2018.

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After seven years of making incredible strides turning Olympic Heights Community High School into the A-rated school that it is today, principal Dave Clark has stepped down from his duties, taking an extended leave of absence due to his wife’s health issues.

As OH awaits the arrival of Ms. Kelly Burke as its new principal, a reflection on Clark’s greatest achievements and the considerable improvements he implemented at OH seems only fitting.

Before becoming the leader at OH, Clark’s reputation in the county as being a principal to bring a school in need of improvement to greater success preceded him, and he did just that at OH.

There is absolutely no doubt that those who worked alongside Clark knew that the school was in capable hands. Assistant principal Mr. Frank D’Annunzio believes that Clark’s ability to look at the “broad scope of what the school was doing well and what the school needed to improve upon” was especially unique in a leader and contributed greatly to the OH’s success.

Sophomore Robbie Sternberg agrees that Clark had the leadership skills to take OH all the way. “I’ve known Mr. Clark since he was my elementary school principal,” shares Sternberg, “and he had such a good influence on our school and had a vision to make our school the best in Palm Beach County.”

D’Annunzio also claims that the first step needed to improve the environment at OH was to build structure for both the staff and students. Clark made sure to “hold everybody accountable for things even as simple as being on time.”

Due to a lack of existing structure when Clark first became principal, new policies, including the tardy policy and dress code, were strengthened and consistently enforced in an effort to change the culture of OH. Nearly all of these policies are still in place and just as effective today.

Ms. Sara Borah, assistant principal of curriculum at OH, recognizes Clark’s accomplishments in a very similar light. Borah explains that Clark “always has the students in mind and first,” ensuring that no student is denied a great high school education and the potential to graduate.

One significant change made to OH under the leadership of Clark was the introduction of the Olympians Advanced Placement Academy (OAPA). This program allows for high-performing students who are zoned for Olympic Heights to truly consider the school as a top choice, whereas in the past these students often looked throughout the county for a better possible option.

OAPA Coordinator Ms. Kelly Lawrence expresses how Clark’s “visible presence” around the school set OAPA and numerous of his other initiatives into motion. “He came with an interest of seeing us grow and improve, not only student body wise, but academically,” describes Lawrence, and “we were incredibly lucky and blessed” to be under Clark’s leadership.

Others around the school also understand Clark’s commitment to raising the academic standards at OH. Chemistry teacher Ms. Linda Pearson is just one of the many. “During his time at Olympic Heights, Mr. Clark was able to ‘breathe life’ into his vision of an academically challenging, full-service high school,” Pearson asserts. “With few resources but a lot of determination, he led the way in improving morale, safety, and community involvement.” Pearson continues to share that Clark’s “sense of humor” and “words of encouragement” are what made his efforts come into full effect.

As an acquaintance of Clark for 13 years, Borah shares that she has come to realize and value his biggest motto as principal: “Be nice.” She adds that Clark is intent on “really just making everyone happy,” and is hopeful that culture will continue at OH.

“He was the best principal I ever had,” announces Marine Biology teacher Ms. Heather Jewett. “He treats people with respect, which is something I have not received at every school. I even left my previous school to follow him here because of how much I respect and admire him.”

Throughout the entire community of professional staff and students, Clark’s commitment to OH is unquestioned. As principal, Clark became a part of the learning environment of the school, often coming in to observe classes and standing in the cafeteria during lunch. “Presence is half the battle,” argues Lawrence, and Clark certainly was available to all at any given time.

Many teachers are particularly grateful to Clark for allowing them the opportunity to teach at OH and making them feel safe and secure at their job. Working somewhere new can always be intimidating, but Clark took it upon himself to ensure that his school was the place to be.

World history teacher Ms. Chelsea Baer exclaims, “He was a great principal overall, absolutely. He’s the one who hired me, so I’ll always have very fond memories of him for giving me the opportunity to work here with all the great faculty we have.”

Psychology and Holocaust Studies teacher Ms. Kathleen Keithley, shares Baer’s sentiment: “Mr. Clark hired me [which] was probably one of the best days of my life. I always felt that he did a very good job of…giving us a good to environment to teach in.”

Most certainly, the way in which Clark led the school through kindness and respect to all transpired to his staff. D’Annunzio later declares that “everybody here enjoys working for him,” a claim that mirrors the mindset of his staff.

In Clark’s emotional speech presented to his faculty and staff on August 28, his colleagues learned that his leave of absence was directly related to his wife’s medical leave of absence as the principal of Polo Park Middle School. Clark’s decision to step back from OH to support and care for his wife is a testament to his character that all in the community recognize and respect.

Spanish teacher Ms. Margaret Sclafani, along with the rest of the staff, was “in shock when Mr. Clark announced that he would be leaving.” Sclafani adds, “What he’s doing is very honorable. It speaks a lot for his character as a man, a husband, and a human being. I respect anyone who understands the importance of family first.”

Many students, as well, understand why Clark had to choose family in this particular instance. Of course, it is a very saddening circumstance, but the respect that Clark gained through his decision is immense.

Junior Alessandra Dangoor expresses that “it is admirable that [Clark] is taking time off to support his partner, and I appreciate all that he has done for the school.”

Senior Natalia Vallejos adds, “Despite Mr. Clark’s seriousness, he always reflected genuine integrity. Hearing my teachers talk about [him leaving] and how emotional it makes them shows not only what a great principal he is, but also how impactful his character is.”

Clark’s efforts to make OH a top high school will forever be appreciated by all in the community. With a 98 percent graduation rate, those students who walked across the stage and the families who were there to watch them say, “Thank you.”

With over 100 staff members, the employees say, “Thank you.”

And with nearly 2,100 students, we all say “Thank you, Mr. Clark” for giving us a school that we are proud to represent.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “A TRIBUTE: Olympic Heights Faculty, Staff, Students, and Community Say “Thank You” to Mr. Dave Clark”

  1. Vanessa Koher on September 12th, 2018 2:11 pm

    What a well-written article! Very eloquent!

  2. Ingrid Simpson on September 13th, 2018 10:53 am

    Dave and Ann Clark are two of the nicest human beings I have encountered during my teaching profession in the Palm Beach School District. I met Ann first at Christa McAuliffe MS, where she was the ESE Coordinator. Then I met Dave at Park Vista High School as an Assistant Principal in 2004, when we opened that new school together. I pray God’s richest blessings over their lives and their family as they go through this very difficult time. God hears and answers our prayers. He is our Healer. Much love and peace.💖🙇🏾‍♀️🙇🏾‍♀️🙇🏾‍♀️
    Ingrid, Shani, Kleya

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A TRIBUTE: Olympic Heights Faculty, Staff, Students, and Community Say “Thank You” to Mr. Dave Clark