A letter of thanks…
This is my last article for the Parker Principal's Blog. I will be moving onto a new position in Wakefield on October 23rd as their new assistant superintendent. I started here in July 2004; Parker was a very different school then. Linda Darisse and I were hired as a new administrative team, principal and assistant principal. When we arrived, the school had split teams in grades 7 and 8, where the same teachers taught multiple subjects in each grade. There was no art work posted or painted on the walls, cell phones were not allowed in school, and Linda and I were the third administrative team starting here in a four year period. A lot of the teacher leaders and veterans were still executing exceptional lessons daily, but the teachers and the school sorely lacked a principal leader. The exceedingly professional and kind assistant principal at that time was Anne Saurman. Anne had agreed to fill-in as AP for a year, three years prior to our arrival. Needless to say when we arrived Anne was ready to get back into the classroom, but generously agreed to work in the office to support us in our transition. Anne Saurman and Diane Ketlak quickly became our guides to all things Reading and more specifically Parker Middle School.
Linda Darisse and I addressed each class in the auditorium when we arrived, as we stood on the stage and watched students enter the auditorium and be seated in silence and then applaud when each of us finished speaking, we felt like we had landed on another planet. Students were so exceptionally kind, thoughtful, and respectful (sometimes to a fault). We quickly learned that Reading and Parker Middle School were worthy of the progressive reputation it had, and just needed some consistent leadership and follow through to again regain its position in the community.
In the years that followed, a new master schedule, intact teacher teams, curriculum focused work, technology integration in all classes, Smart Boards, iPads, BYOD, students creating work for an audience greater than one (AGTO), Critical Friends Groups, Student Led Conferences, teachers focused on how students learn, and too many district initiatives to count, the school is currently in a great place. In this eleven plus year period of change, we have learned so much as principals and as a faculty, and have made the school one of the finest in the district and I would argue in the State.
Our successes at Parker are due in large part to so many exceptional district and teacher leaders. Pat Schettini, and John Doherty have been exceptional mentor leaders for me. As I have been working through the transition to my new position, leaders, teachers and parents have asked, “…what is the greatest strength of Parker Middle School?...” The answer comes with great clarity, “…it is the teachers…” We have had the good fortune (past and present) to work with master teacher leaders like Dave Williams, Pat Zona, Anne Saurman, Diane Ketlak, Kathy Jacobitz, Kathy Daly, and Ellen Howland to mention just a few. These teachers and counselors have been and continue to be the life blood of the school.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation on students to perform well in school at younger and younger ages. What is unique about Parker is that the staff genuinely loves their work. To be clear, I mean that teachers love the content they teach, but are equally committed to the notion that “…how students perform…” matters most. Teachers genuinely understand the demands and expectations that students have on them, and they are expert at coaching kids to participate in their learning. This is not the same for each student, some students need to be challenged with more complex work, and others need to be coached to develop the grit and resilience to work a bit harder, while still others need safe environments to simply show what they are thinking about the subjects they are studying. I believe the teachers here have never been better at coaching and creating these conditions in their classes so students can learn and grow.
I would like to sincerely, thank you all for the opportunity to be your principal here at Parker Middle School. It has been such a significant, formative learning experience for me as a teacher and a leader. I am unable to fully capture in words the positive feelings I have for the community, the teachers, families, and especially the students. I will always be sure to remember to give appropriate credit for the opportunities and experiences I have had here at Parker Middle School. Thank you all!