Val Fox’s Legacy At Lincoln

For more than 20 years, students at Lincoln High School could count on her leadership. Now Principal Val Fox is retiring.  Fox started as a teacher in the Sioux Falls School District in 1978.  She became assistant principal at Lincoln in 1995. Then four years later, she took over as head of the school.  The students and staff who know her best will tell you being principal has always been more than just a job to Fox. 

Fox: “When you start, when you start young, when you’re in your 20s — you go– I’ll only do this for a few years.”
Brady: “How long have you been here?”
Fox: “I’ve been here, what?  30-some years?  A long time.  This is my home.” 

Her infectious laugh and strong leadership are longtime mainstays in the main office of Lincoln High school.  Ask anyone, and you will learn that is far from the only place you will find Fox. 

“I mean, if I go to a sporting event, she’s there,” Amanda Kadi, teacher, said. 

Fox always makes it a point to be there for the students.  

“It’s so fun to see the talent that I know I never had as a high school kid and you’re just in awe of their intelligence and their energy and everything else.  It keeps you young,” Fox said. 

An art history major, Fox started as an elementary art teacher at Garfield and Laura B. Anderson Elementary Schools.  When she started, she was part of an era when all three high schools within in the Sioux Falls School District had female principals.  That was a big deal at the time.

“When people don’t know who the principal is here and they come asking and if the other two assistant principals and myself are out there, they will gravitate towards one of the men automatically,” Fox said in 1999. 

Judging by the constant circle of people who seek her advice every day, you can tell times have certainly changed. 

It is no surprise Fox landed this role. Education is in her blood. Most of her family is made up of teachers.

“Public education is the backbone to this country.  It makes this a great country.  If we don’t continue to really support public education, our country is going to start to crack and we’re going to have the haves and the have-nots even worse than now,” Fox said.

Fox plans to spend more time with her three children, but her students and faculty are the other loves of her life. 

“I want to make them feel like they have a place to be, which is here,” Fox said. 

“She knows all of us. Not because she has to, because she wants to. She’s personally invested in all of us. She’s personally invested in all the students,” Kadi said. 

Over the years, we have seen students — particularly members of the LGBT community — face adversity.  This longtime principal says she has worked hard to create a safe and open environment for everyone.  Fox is not trying to be cunning and portray a certain image; she says she does this because she genuinely cares. 

“So be yourself,  whatever that is. That’s what I want kids to feel, that they can just be themselves and be comfortable,” Fox said. 

It seems Fox has always lived by that, even when she was a little –let’s say skeptical– about certain student choices.  KELOLAND News capture a rather comical exchange between her and student with a mohawk in 1999.  

“What did you do to your hair?  Cut it?  Right, Whatever.  Are you going to lunch?” Fox said. 

Senior Aidan DeBoer says students from all walks of life appreciate her efforts to promote acceptance in the school. 

“You just get that nice home feeling from her, very welcoming. She’s excited for you to be there and you’re excited to be there. It just makes everything so much easier,” DeBoer said. 

Brady: “Is it tough to see her go?”
Kadi: “Yes.  Yes.  I’m very excited for her, but very sad that she’s leaving.  Because she’s made this such a wonderful place to be.” 

Closing the book on Lincoln High School is hard, but Fox is ready to write her next chapter. Her students have influenced her life tremendously, and she hopes she has played at least a small role in their lives.

“I always tried to look for the best in what kids are doing. I really want them to do their best. Somebody is always going to be watching you. Somebody is always going to be watching,” Fox said. 

The district hired former South Carolina High School Principal, Robert Grimm.  Grimm officially steps into his new role July 1st.

Next school year, you will no longer see this Lincoln High School principal in her office. That is ok, because it is clear Val Fox has found a lasting place in the hearts of everyone who knows her.

“I’m very blessed to be here,” Fox said.



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