Valley Community School chief inspires

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comAugust 5, 2013 

Valley Community School's new principal Julius Lockett pictured in Merced Wednesday. (7-31-13)

DOANE YAWGER — Merced Sun-Star Buy Photo

— Before you instruct a student, you must inspire that student.

That's a key element of Julius Lockett's thinking. He's the new principal of the Merced campus of Valley Community School and brings some forward-thinking ideas to student discipline issues.

Building relationships with students is crucial for teachers and administrators. "If you can't inspire me, it will be difficult to instruct me," Lockett said.

Lockett, 56, is a former police officer from the Atlanta area. After nine years, he realized he couldn't arrest enough people to rectify the crime situation and change society.

In the mid-1990s, Lockett's focus changed to education. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in public and urban affairs from Georgia State University.

What's an inspirational leader? Lockett said it is someone who can build authentic relationships with students and align all resources to help them. He said he has worked in all types of educational settings, from traditional schools to alternative campuses.

Schools generally deal with student achievement through instruction, without properly addressing safety issues and relationship-building, Lockett said.

He also operates a consulting business called Urban Essentials 101, and has conducted training sessions in restorative justice with the Merced Union High School District and his current employer, the Merced County Office of Education.

Restorative justice has three key elements — recognizing what happened, restoring equity or making it right, and dealing with future interests or expectations, Lockett said.

In his new role, Lockett expects to mediate relationships between students as well as student-teacher issues. Earlier in life, he developed the restorative justice elements and moved that concept to a school setting.

Valley Community School has about 90 students and can accommodate up to 15. It has five full-time staff members and uses three Regional Occupational Program instructors.

'Passion and enthusiasm' praised

Steve Gomes, Merced County superintendent of schools, is enthusiastic about Lockett joining MCOE ranks.

"I think the passion and enthusiasm that Julius shows for students and his work will continue to take Merced Community School in a positive direction," Gomes said. "Julius' experience and interest in creating a restorative justice program is the positive direction I am looking for in our community schools."

Lockett also has a different view about suspending misbehaving students.

"You can't suspend kids into submission," he said. Students who traditionally would be suspended and sent home are moved into different instructional programs at Valley Community School.

Holly Newlon, assistant superintendent of career and alternative education at MCOE, said Lockett has a demonstrated record of inspirational leadership. She looks forward to the positive impact Lockett will have with Merced students.

"Valley Community School serves students who do best in an alternative education setting," Newlon said, "and in this setting, inspiration and hope for the future are essential for student success."

Before coming to Merced, Lockett was principal at Discovery High School in Sacramento. Before that, he was assistant principal at Orange Glen High School in Escondido for two years, chief of student affairs and vice principal at Keiller Leadership Academy in San Diego and a history-language arts teacher at the Elkhorn Correctional Boot Camp run by the Fresno County Office of Education.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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