We heard the shocking news today that the principal of our daughters’ high school, Michael Doran, was found unresponsive in his home this morning and pronounced dead. (More details here…)
Dr. Doran was first of all a kind human being and family man. His children grown, he was free to invest many more hours than the school day required at Wootton events, sports, arts programs and more. I doubt he knew my name, or our children’s, but he did know how to speak to the needs and issues of a large public high school. (I should comment here… He was totally approachable. If they had wanted to talk to him, they knew they could.) He was a consummate politician, a detailed administrator, and a class act.
I reflected this evening on the impact of school culture and its leadership. Public schools have an almost impossible task, with overbearing requirements from people who are not teachers. (I’m looking at you, Department of Education.) Among the challenges Dr. Doran left behind are the competitive nature of college admissions and the demands of Wootton parents, the grind of AP classes, (another blog post in itself), the increasing numbers of ESOL and special needs students, and the time-honored high school issues of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Being an educator is not for the faint-of-heart. I think of my friends and family members who are educators and take my hat off to them. If you don’t think teachers work hard, imagine a classroom full of students like your kids on their worst day ever. Then multiply it by 10, add committee meetings, required testing (that may or may not make sense or fit the curriculum), inane requirements to demonstrate you are a “master teacher” and so on. I tried to be a teacher. I wasn’t cut out for it.
Despite all the crap that goes on in public schools, there are bright spots to celebrate. Creativity in the classroom (my daughters experienced it daily). Support during difficult “seasons” of adolescence by some caring, understanding teachers (you know who you are). Opportunities to participate in college-level theater productions in the pit orchestras. Travel abroad. And a top-flight Arts and Humanities Signature Program.
Am I glad we are done with public school as parents? Oh my, yes. But my hope is that schools like Wootton will continue, despite all of the problems, to raise the potential of each student to learn, grow and find their way to a happy and productive adulthood. And that most importantly, they will remember to hire administrators and principals who never lose sight of the students they are there to teach.
Dr. Doran loved his job and did it well. The Wootton community will miss him, and yet will pull together, somehow, to start the new school year strong.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may those who knew him best and love him the most be comforted and find grace to get through these difficult days. To my friends who teach at Wootton, if you need someone to listen, I’m here for you.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.