Ridgeview High Principal Lee Loving was worried that he’d forgotten about a planned school assembly when he walked into a packed gymnasium April 18.

But the standing ovation directed at him quickly made it clear that the “really important meeting” he’d been in with Redmond School District Superintendent Mike McIntosh was just a ruse to allow the school to fill the gym with students, teachers and officials excited about the big news — Loving had been named 2019 Oregon High School Principal of the Year.

“I had no idea,” Loving said after receiving the award from the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators and its umbrella organization, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. “I’m completely overwhelmed.”

Loving praised staff and the school’s 800 students in receiving the honor, before leading the crowd in a climactic “Raven Stomp.”

“I’m so grateful to work with all these people and serve all these kids and families,” he said. “It’s an absolute pleasure.”

Loving was nominated for the award by assistant principals Jensine Peterson and Kelly Hicks, who had to keep it a secret for a week.

The assistant principals call Loving an amazing person.

“He just makes everybody feel super-important and vital to the team,” Peterson told the Spokesman.

“He just epitomizes what we should all aspire to be,” Hicks added.

Loving will be honored at the school administrators conference in June in Seaside and is Oregon’s nominee for the National Association for Secondary School Principals award, which will be presented in July in Boston.

Craig Hopkins, executive director of the confederation, told the audience that Loving knows that building a foundation for student success leads to success for the school.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with Lee for several years...and I don’t think I’ve ever met another school leader who believes more deeply than Lee does about developing positive and supportive relationships with students,” Hopkins said. “The thing about Lee is, his commitment to developing these positive relationships extends to adults, as well, as the staff here at Ridgeview can tell you.”

Loving has served on the board of the school administrators group, as well as president of the state high school principals association.

Loving will come full circle when he is honored on the coast, where he was vice principal of Seaside High before being hired at Ridgeview in June 2011.

While planning for Ridgeview to open, Loving also served as interim principal at Redmond High during the 2011-12 school year, after that school’s principal went on leave and was later fired.

Loving brought many effective partnerships to Ridgeview, including the Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, college readiness program, Hopkins said.

‘I think it is fair to say that he is driven by the desire to have a school with an environment where every student can succeed,” he said.

Loving also built strong relationships with the city of Redmond and Redmond Economic Development Inc., helping place students in internships, according to a district news release. He’s helped establish early college and technical courses with schools like Central Oregon Community College and Southern Oregon University

Teachers and students praised Loving during the assembly.

“You guide us with integrity and an epic sense of purpose,” said Ridgeview engineering teacher Cory O’Neill. “You inspire us. You cause us to want to make better what we do and who we are.”

Much of the principals work goes unacknowledged, said language arts teacher Lea Harmon.

“For this honor to be bestowed upon you, it makes my heart happy because you deserve it,” she said. “For at least today, one day of your career, you know how much your hard work means to us all.”

When Loving addressed the audience, he admitted to shaking, despite his regular public speaking. He teared up when thanking his wife, Kylie.

“This is my dream job,” he said. “Coming here to Redmond eight years ago, we had hope and we were excited to come here. And it’s surpassed all of the things that we thought it would be.

While Peterson wasn’t surprised to learn Loving would receive the award, she did work hard to keep it a surprise to the principal. Loving was greeted by his family and former teachers who were invited back.

“How do you fool a man who, basically, knows everything about a school?” she said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com