The Lake Oswego Asset Builders Coalition will honor Lakeridge High School Principal Mike Lehman and Lake Oswego High School Principal Bruce Plato as 'Asset Builders of the Year' at the group's annual luncheon Friday.

The distinction is given to a community member or members who use positive qualities and personal experiences - 'developmental assets' - to help local youth become healthy, caring and responsible individuals.

Lehman and Plato - along with their respective administrative teams - have incorporated asset building into their leadership style in a way that models positive behavior for local students, according to LOABC members.

'They are around a huge number of kids each day and it's an unusual role,' said Peggy Morrell, LOABC school outreach coordinator. 'They do (asset building) extraordinarily well. It's going beyond knowing who kids are. It's reaching out to them.'

The 2007 luncheon, to be held at Oswego Heritage House, marks the fourth of its kind for LOABC, a coalition of city and school leadership, parents, faith based and civic organizations, health care professionals and students.

In 2006, Morrell was honored for her work with Palisades Elementary School. LOHS crossing guard Wil Andrews was honored in 2005. Each honoree is nominated by the LOABC board or brought to the board's attention by the community.

Lehman and Plato were the obvious next selection, Morrell said.

'They've done some incredible things since they've been there and were able to sustain asset building on an ongoing basis and that attracts attention,' she said.

Lehman, former principal of Waluga Junior High School, has been principal at Lakeridge for the past two years. He is known for his laid-back demeanor and a love for surfing and his blues band, Big Blind. On any given school day, you will find him sweeping up stray garbage with a hand-held vacuum and chatting with students.

Plato, who spent six years as principal of Cleveland High School in Portland, started his job at LOHS in 2002 during the construction phase of the new school. A former standout baseball pitcher, Plato understands the importance of athletics and often plays basketball with members of his staff.

Lehman and Plato share similar philosophies when it comes to working with students and leading their schools. Improving school culture and strengthening relationships are both priorities.

Both men know a majority of their students' names and interests. They also spend much of their workday in the hallways mingling with students.

In August, the teaching and support staff at LOHS attended a daylong retreat to focus on ways to make sure every student had a positive connection with at least one adult at LOHS, Plato said. A recent diversity assembly gave LOHS students the opportunity to anonymously explain the ways they struggle in their lives.

At Lakeridge, student leaders, faculty, staff and administration work together to create opportunities for kids who have interests that may not match up with the school's traditional outlets. For example, during a school dance, the staff also provides a location for video gaming, ping-pong and chess playing.

The idea is to create a welcoming environment for all students, Lehman said, and the effort is ongoing. Both administrative teams meet regularly to discuss their strategies.

'We're committed to making our high schools the best of all places for our students to experience their high school years,' Lehman said.

Plato and Lehman said they feel honored to be recognized by the LOABC and appreciate the organization's role in fostering positive opportunities for students.

They plan to share the distinction with their co-workers.

'I feel this honor is a direct reflection on the outstanding and ongoing work of our entire teaching and support staff,' Plato said. 'We have made a commitment to creating a school environment where students and adults feel safe, are treated with respect, and accepted for who they are.'

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