Patti Rasmussen

Retiring Hart principal a class act

Patti Rasmussen · June 7, 1997

I have been a Hart High parent for five years now. Most of those years have been a very pleasant, exciting time in my life and the lives of my boys. As a parent I've attended Back to School nights, had meetings with counselors and teachers, and have been an avid supporter of sports and fine arts.

I never thought my path would cross with those of the principal, Mr. Laurence Strauss, because rarely do my boys get in serious trouble (some, but not too serious) where a meeting with the principal would be in order. But I was wrong when it came to Strauss, because he is everywhere those students are. Whether it's watching football games -- he is a major sports fan -- or attending a drama production, he is the kind of principal who is there for all things involving his students.

Laury Strauss came to the Hart District by way of Bakersfield. Having attended school in the area, Strauss came back to Bakersfield after graduating from the University of Minnesota to teach math and physical education at Lincoln Jr. High. He says he pretty much "coached everything."

In 1965, he was asked by a fellow teacher if he would like a job in the Santa Clarita Valley at a fairly new school, Hart High. He accepted and, once again, taught math, P.E. and was the varsity basketball coach. In 1967, he was appointed counselor at Sierra Vista Junior High and in 1969 transferred to Canyon High.

In 1970, Strauss went back to Sierra Vista, first as assistant principal, then as principal. He came back to Hart High as principal in 1983 and has been there since.

Mr. Strauss and his wife Marlene have three children, Lisa, Debbie and David, all of whom graduated from Hart, with the youngest there as a senior while Dad was principal.

Strauss believes that Hart High has made huge strides in the AP (advanced placement) classes for highly motivated students, as well compensatory education classes for those students needing the extra help. What needs to happen next, according to Strauss, is for the school to really look into the curriculum geared toward "mid kids" -- students who fall into the middle-of- the-road and who clearly make up a large percentage of the school population. This is a defined goal and part of the action plan of the accreditation process that is now taking place at Hart High.

Much work still needs to be complete on the earthquake damaged buildings at Hart. Work is now being started on the school's auditorium, which will leave the small gymnasium and the administrative offices left to do. Strauss believes that all the work will be complete on these buildings within a couple of years.

When asked what the students need to get ready for the 21st century, Strauss believes that "kids need to feel connected with adults." He would like to see a support system at all the schools "where all the children feel there is an adult there for them." Strauss would also like to see more students going into college with an idea of what they want to be. He believes that the curriculum needs to be developed to encourage students' "thinking skills and of life after high school."

I relayed to Mr. Strauss my concern that with his retirement there were so many things left to do and that Hart will have a hard time getting back into sync. He said that the one thing that won't change is the pride parents and students have in being a part of Hart. He appreciates the support he gets from his school community and loves to hear "I go . . . (or) my child goes to Hart High."

And it's true. As we sat at the Macaroni Grill, I stopped counting the number of kids who walked up to Mr. Strauss during lunch, shook his hand and said, "Hello, Mr. Strauss, I'm so-and-so, class of thus-and-such." He remembered just about all of them.

Hart and Laury Strauss have had a rough couple of months. I've only seen or heard of Strauss becoming emotional, to the point of tears, twice. Once, as he gave a eulogy for student Heath Taylor, and a few months back when his son announced that the new gymnasium would be dedicated to him.

A classy guy. I'm going to miss him.

- 30 -

Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

Click Here to return to the "SCV School Beat" with Patti Rasmussen