VICTORVILLE — The Victor Valley Union High School District is saying goodbye to two beloved principals as the school year comes to a close.
Victor Valley High School Principal Chris Douglass and Lakeview Leadership Academy Principal Lonnie Keeter are both retiring.
Douglass has been in the Victorville area since 1964, attending Del Rey School, Victor Valley Junior High, Victor Valley High and Victor Valley College before graduating from the University of Eastern Montana. He returned to Victorville in 1984 when he was hired as a math teacher at Victor Valley High.
He taught other subjects including business, accounting and computers and also coached football and basketball. He served as the VVHS assistant principal before becoming principal in 2006. In all, he worked 32 years at the school.
“Walking these halls for so many years, knowing that is coming to an end is hard,” Douglass said on Wednesday, his last school day with the district. “But the stress of the job, I won’t miss that.”
District Library Media Teacher Teri Nowacki has worked with Douglass since she started as a teacher at VVHS in 1991, and she called him “a true leader.” “Chris' educational vision is one that always has the students at the forefront,” Nowacki said. “... As district leadership and vision has changed, Chris has always stood firmly for the kids. The other aspect of Chris as principal that I love is that he is part of the school team, not just a figurehead. No matter the situation, he always runs toward it, never away.”
Keeter came to education through sports. After playing baseball in the Red Sox and Texas Rangers organizations for a total of seven years, he began coaching at the high school level in 1975 while working as an English teacher in Oregon. He later became an assistant baseball coach at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a head baseball coach at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City before returning to professional baseball as a hitting coach in the San Diego Padres organization. He was introduced to the High Desert in 1991 when he was the hitting coach for a brand new minor league team within the Padres organization — the High Desert Mavericks.
After serving as a roving hitting instructor for the Padres, Keeter said he grew tired of the constant travel and decided to go back into education. He worked as an English teacher for Apple Valley Unified School District and then joined VVUHSD as an English teacher in 2000. He later became an assistant principal at VVHS and principal at the former Cobalt Middle School before becoming the Lakeview Middle School principal in 2012. Keeter instituted a new focus on leadership, and the school was renamed Lakeview Leadership Academy a year later.
“Mr. Keeter spearheaded the transition of Lakeview Middle School into Lakeview Leadership Academy,” said Keeter’s administrative assistant Marla Nye, who worked with Keeter for all four of his years at Lakeview. “By implementing the Leader in Me program, the students had the opportunity to develop leadership skills that will help them throughout high school and into adulthood. … He was devoted to the students and staff to ensure the success of the school and that we built leaders, one child at a time.”
Keeter said he truly enjoyed coming to work every day, but it was time to move on.
“I want to personally thank the Victor Valley Union High School District for giving me an opportunity to be an administrator and hopefully I have been a positive influence to students and staff,” Keeter said.
Keeter will be succeeded by Kent Crosby, while Douglass’ successor is Nancy Noyer.
“Mr. Douglass and Mr. Keeter have been instrumental in moving our district forward,” VVUHSD Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams said. “They are exemplary leaders, and each of them leaves very big shoes to fill. We are grateful for their service and want them to know that they will always be part of the VVUHSD family.”
Top photo: Chris Douglass; Bottom photo: Lonnie Keeter