New Mustangs principal hopes to build upon the school's success.
It’s the main question asked by Dustin Dahlquist, the new principal at Lakewood Ranch High School.
“Can we do better?”
Dahlquist, who officially becomes the school’s principal Jan. 22, said he knows he is stepping into a tradition of success as Lakewood Ranch has long been A-rated by the state, has strong program offerings and solid athletics.
“There’s the music program, the arts, the television production, the student journalists,” Dahlquist said. “There is a committed group of students and teachers. It’s high-achieving everywhere.”
That may not leave much room for improvement, but Dahlquist said he’s coming to the school in “observation mode.” He has an open mind and ears, ready to listen to teachers, staff, parents and students about what they like, what they don’t like and what could perhaps be added.
“A culture of success is already here,” he said. “I’m here to enhance that. Where can we get to? You have to provide that vision.”
Dahlquist said Lakewood Ranch High is a top-rated high school with a 91% graduation rate.
“How are we going to do better?” Dahlquist said. “It won’t work if it’s just my ideas.”
Dahlquist said his initial objectives are to build relationships, to see what’s happening in classrooms and to keep seniors focused the second half of the year as they prepare for graduation. He also wants to “deepen roots” in the community, seeing how the school can partner with Lakewood Ranch businesses and organizations.
He plans to spend a lot of time at after-school events and other functions to fulfill those goals.
“I plan to be here a lot. I’m not adverse to work. My wife (Megan) married a coach and teacher. I can bring my son (Dane) and he can take in all the things that go on and see all the possibilities for him — (Technology Student Association), television production, agriculture, ROTC. It’s going to be good for myself and my family.”
Dahlquist comes to Lakewood after serving as Buffalo Creek Middle School’s principal since 2016. Before that, he worked at Palmetto High School for 18 years, first as a science teacher and later as physical education teacher, athletic director and assistant principal. He worked in administration from 2007 until starting at Buffalo Creek.
Although Dahlquist’s principalship has been at the middle-school level, he said he’s excited to get back to the high school level.
Dahlquist said his time at Buffalo Creek has given him more perspective into the social, academic and other growth children go through in the grades leading up to high school, and he can better understand what needs freshmen, in particular, may have.
“The last four years at Buffalo Creek have been invaluable,” Dahlquist said. “I understand student growth and development so much more.”