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Walnut Creek Magazine

Once A Knight, Always A Knight

Apr 13, 2021 02:19PM ● By Deborah Burstyn

NOTE: This interview first appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of Walnut Creek Magazine. It was written as a tribute to Las Lomas Principal Pat Lickiss upon his retirement. Yesterday, we lost Pat Lickiss to complications from a heart attack. He was 70 years old and leaves behind two sons, Patrick and Andrew. He was proceeded in death by his wife of over 35 years, Kathy, who he met when they were both teachers at Campolindo High School. 

While we mourn the loss of this incredible man, we remember his greatness and passion for the Walnut Creek community. 

This fall when school doors open at Las Lomas High School, its beloved principal, Pat Lickiss, will not be there welcoming students. After nearly 40 years in the Acalanes Union High School District, 17 of them as the Principal of Las Lomas, Lickiss is leaving for a well-deserved retirement. With a zeal for running a tight ship and boundless energy, Lickiss excelled at balancing seemingly disparate traits: humor and compassion with a buck-stops-here no-nonsense discipline. Under his leadership, Las Lomas has consistently been honored as one of America’s top-performing high schools in Newsweek’s annual list.

Walnut Creek Magazine asked this pillar of our community to share some parting thoughts.

What’s changed since you first became principal here?  The community is a lot more affluent now. Family dynamics have changed with more stress on kids. There are more single-parent homes and households with both parents working. Universities are accepting fewer kids. I just wrote an appeal letter for a kid with a 3.9 GPA who was turned down by UC Irvine. When I went to UC Berkeley, getting in was based on grades. Now it’s based on grades, volunteerism, and activities. There’s more pressure on kids to be everything. It is paramount that we provide a safe environment, physically, mentally, and emotionally, at school for our kids.

What are you most proud of? I am proud of the way our students care about others.  When we had the pipeline explosion, our students raised $18,000 in ten days for the families. We have a family here struggling with death and illness and it’s become something students are trying to help with. You don’t see that a lot at high schools.

Why are you leaving? It’s time to do something else. I’ve been working with high school students for 43 years. I have graduated 5500 high school seniors from this school. On a good week I work 60 hours, but most weeks I put in 80 hours. I’ve heard that the longevity of most high school principals is five years. After that, you either take a district job or the community runs you out. I’ve had a long run for a high school principal. I've always enjoyed working with kids.  It’s my calling.  

What is your daily routine? I'm up at 4:00 am, at the gym by 5:30 am, and at work by 7:30 a.m. After a full day on campus, if I don't have night meetings or games to attend, I am home between 6:00-6:30 pm. 

What has made you so good at this job? I look at myself as being the father of these kids during school hours. My number one focus is taking care of them.  Am I perfect at it? No. But I don’t blame other people when there’s a problem.

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment?  The reconstruction of the high school – in terms of new building construction to getting the facility up to speed. I am also proud of the fact that we earned California Distinguished High School designation. To get it once is good, to get it twice is unheard of. We were one of 35 schools to achieve National Blue Ribbon status. Being able to go to Washington DC and represent Las Lomas made me very proud. We are consistently ranked in the top three percent of high schools in California.

What is a little-known fact about you? The Lickiss family was known for generations in Oakland as rowing champions. Today there is still a Lickiss Cup race and a Lickiss boating center on Lake Merritt.  

What are you going to do after you retire?  I am going to travel with my wife Kathy. There is also work I would like to do. I hope to mentor young administrators.  As I like to say, once a Knight, always a Knight.




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