Gayla Lutts has been preparing for her new role for more than three years.
It was destined.
Lutts is the hand-picked successor to Dr. Greg Winters as the superintendent of Canadian Valley Technology Center.
She began her new job Aug. 11, the day after Winters retired.
Winters told members of the technology center’s board of education more than three years ago that he planned to retire. He asked for recommendations on finding his successor.
In a previous interview, Winters said that he had gone to the board and suggested the options for finding his replacement were simple: find someone on staff who could work with him over three years and be trained or wait and let someone else begin from scratch.
The board supported the first option.
Lutts, who already was on staff as campus director, got the nod and was promoted to deputy superintendent.
“The succession plan that Dr. Winters put into place three years ago really helped with the transition because the staff and faculty knew the intention and the board was supportive of that,” Lutts said during a recent interview. “I think that all helped. There wasn’t a big switch.
Lutts said she is excited about what the future holds.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a very long time. I feel like the succession plan set me up to be successful on all fronts,” she said.
To achieve her new job, Lutts was placed in control of the school’s finance department and human resources. She also received her doctorate.
Lutts said she only recently graduated from the American College of Education with her doctorate degree, which was mandatory for the job.
She said being able to work with Winters during the three-year period gave her a real insight into how the school operated. She said there was a bonus of working with his contacts and getting to know them.
“He is very much a transformational leader,” she said, praising the long-time educator’s ability to plan into the future.
Lutts also said her leadership style is similar to that of Winters.
“I am a collaborative leader, I believe that as a leader it is my responsibility to establish a culture that is focused on the health and well-being, safety and inclusion of all employees so we can continuously improve.
“I am a servant leader. I believe in inspiring and empowering people. I want them to grow and learn, and I believe in establishing a positive culture where people are part of the process and they understand ‘why.’ It creates an environment where people buy in. It creates a positive environment,” Lutts said.
She also pointed out that the school’s goal continues to be about students.
“Our goal is student success. They are the bottom line. They are who we focus on. Every decision has to be about the students. We need to do that by using data to inform our decisions, making sure we have diverse perspectives; taking everything into consideration so we can make the best environment for the students,” she said.
Canadian Valley Technology Center has three campuses. The main campus is on the eastern edge of El Reno. There are satellite campuses in Chickasha and Yukon.
There are more than 1,500 students on the three campuses.
Lutts served as the El Reno school’s campus director in 2013 when an F5 tornado decimated the facilities.
It was her job to find new homes for each of the programs.
Winters had pledged that school would open as normal in August. It did.
Lutts worked with the city of Yukon along with several other people to find locations for the El Reno operation.
Most were housed inside a vacant car dealership in Yukon.
The aeronautics program moved to MetroTech, where it remains.
However, that is about to change.
Crews began earlier this month moving dirt and laying foundations for an expansion at the El Reno site that will move the school’s aeronautics and pre-engineering programs back to the main campus.
The Cowan campus in Yukon, where the pre-engineer program is located, is expected to be fully devoted to health programs in the future.
Lutts was raised in Moore and graduated from Moore High School. She has previously taught in the Del City and Putnam City districts.
She has been at Canadian Valley Tech for 25 years.
“I have established relationships with most of the people here. It’s a big district, and it is an advantage to have established a relationship with the employees,” she said.
Lutts said she wants to see the school continue the path that already has been set.
“I want to see us partner with business and industry. We must figure out what is needed in this area and educate students to gain certification, so they can fill the gap. Quality programs are essential. As a school of choice, if we are not on the top of our game with curriculum, instruction and with equipment, people may not choose to come here. Accountability is huge,” she said.
“We definitely have an impact on the economy, and we take that job very seriously. It’s critical for our communities,” Lutts continued.
She said the program will continue to be successful.
“I see success. I see a successful school. I see a school that is focused on continuously improving high standards, accountability and student success,” Lutts said.