Canadian Valley Tech names building after longtime superintendent
EL RENO — Greg Winters never wavered from the promise he made on television the night of May 31, 2013.
"Nobody loses their job. School starts on time in August," Winters told ABC's Ginger Zee as he surveyed the aftermath and feared the worst following the widest tornado on record.
Canadian Valley Technology Center, for which Winters has been superintendent since 2008, was battered by the massive storm. All nine buildings on the campus were destroyed.
The tornado left a swath of destroyed homes and businesses in the heart of Canadian County.
The steel frame of a small freestanding structure on the northwest edge of Canadian Valley's campus was salvaged for use as the administration building. The building re-opened in June 2015.
In recognition of Winters' leadership in the days and months after the storm, the school's board of education renamed the building in Winters' honor. Officially, the building will be known as the Dr. Greg Z. Winters District Administration Building.
History of service
Winters, 62, of Piedmont, has invested more than 40 years in Oklahoma education, including 36 as an administrator. He has been a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent.
He is one of two people in state history to have served as superintendent in three districts (also at Kiamichi Technology Center and Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center). Clovis Weatherford shares the distinction.
Winters is also the longest-serving current superintendent in the state.
"I am so humbled by this announcement," Winters said. "Any success I have as the leader is a direct correlation to the people with which I work. I don't spend a lot of time in my office, because I much prefer to be in the classrooms and the shops.
"The most defining moment was Aug. 15 of 2013 when KOCO-5 reporter Jessica Shambach came out and interviewed one of our Piedmont students. The young lady told Jessica that after the tornado she started worrying whether or not she was going to have a school to go to so she could finish her education."
Winters said the student's comments made him realize how important the job of re-opening school within 72 days really was.
"That sealed the deal for me," Winters said. "When you hear a kid give a testimony like that, which is not coerced, that's all you really need. It was the most powerful confirmation for me of how important our job was."
Winters admits there was some discussion about canceling school for a year, but he said he kept coming back to his promise and refused to break it.
Plans to retire
Recently, Winters announced plans to retire in June 2018. He asked the board to name Gayla Lutts, of Yukon, as deputy superintendent. Winters said he intends to impart as much information and wisdom to Lutts as possible before then.
Lutts characterizes Winters as tenacious.
"He led us through the biggest disaster that a tech center has ever had to go through," Lutts said. "We're talking about building an entire career tech campus from the ground up. It was all gone.
"He has an amazing ability to get people on board with his train of thought. Just because he says it doesn't mean everybody will automatically do it. But because we respect him and his leadership, everybody gets on board with it."
Winters said his work ethic comes from advice he received from his father.
"My dad told me 'Don't you ever ask somebody to do something you're not willing to do.' He ingrained that in me at a later age — actually after I had already become a boss.
"He was the guy at work who was always asked to do things others didn't want to do, and they knew if they assigned it to dad, it would get done. I trained my boys the same way. My wife's parents were the same way as dirt farmers in Greer County. If you farm there, you've got to be as tough as a run-over boot."
Winters has served on numerous boards and commissions, including a 26-year stint as a member of the National Board of Directors of the National Technical Honor Society.
Winters married his high school sweetheart, MeMe. They have three children, four granddaughters and a grandson.
By Bill Kramer
Public relations coordinator
Canadian Valley Technology Center