Saying Goodbye

In my twenty years in education, I’ve had to say goodbye to treasured colleagues more than once. Either because someone took another job or because I was moving to a new district, it’s always bittersweet. While I wish the person well, I often miss our daily contact. If you think about it, we often spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own family members. Friendships are formed through the difficult decisions, challenges, and laughs that we share together.

So here I am saying goodbye again this week. Our middle school principal, Bill Caldwell, has been selected to lead an outstanding elementary school in a neighboring district. He’s an excellent selection for them; he’s outgoing, positive, wonderful with children, and enthusiastic. It’s a great move for him personally and professionally. I truly believe that a move to a new district can be an incredible opportunity for administrators as we learn new ways of doing things and face new challenges. I absolutely know that this is the best move for Mr. Caldwell.

And yet today, I’m very sad to see him go. Bill and I have known each other since our days as teachers at Pine Valley Central School. I remember when he would come into my classroom as a special ed teacher to help my business students better understand disabilities. He was warm and funny and really reached my kids, helping them to gain understanding and compassion. I also remember chaperoning a senior class trip together to NYC. Bill was the one I had to turn to at dinner and say, “Um, Bill, we just let the bus go and I didn’t make arrangements to get these 54 kids from here to the broadway show we booked.” Bill calmly (as always) pointed out that he and I had better skip dinner and walk to a pay phone (days before cell phones, if you can believe it) to arrange the transportation. Problem solved.

While I can sometimes go from 0-60 faster than a Corvette ZR1, Bill  keeps it steady at just the right speed. He did it then, he was that same guy as assistant principal here when I was the principal, and he’s right there keeping the pace for me now. So this time, I’m saying goodbye to a dear and treasured friend, not just a work colleague. Someone who can look me in the eye on a bad day and when I reply as the superintendent that everything is great, he gets past that to ask what’s really wrong. He’s a great friend because he doesn’t just ask to ask, he then listens intently. I don’t take that for granted because in my job, most of my time is spent listening to others, problem solving and responding.

Bill’s also a great friend because he’s got a terrific sense of humor. My sarcasm is never lost on him, he never misinterprets me or thinks I mean something other than what I just said. His intellect allows him to remember every person he’s ever met. This is great at those times when I say, “remember that kid we had trouble with when I was here as principal? you know, the one with the funny haircut who loved Rob Zombie?” and Bill knows exactly who I mean and remembers his name. Who’s going to do that for me now? I’ll be calling him at Southwestern asking, “what was that. . . ?” The good thing is knowing that Bill will know what I’m talking about–that’s only possible with friends who go ‘way back’.

I wish you the very best my friend. I know we’ll say things like, “Derek and I will meet you and Amy for dinner some night” and that with both of our busy lives and kids we’ll never get around to it. My best hope now is that we end up working together in some capacity for the last ten years of our careers, just like we did during the first and then second ten years. Go make a difference!

One Comment
  1. I just wanted to say here, to Bill, and to anyone reading this blog. Bill will be missed. I have known Bill in many different capacities since he came here to Randolph. Bill was one of the founders of Character Counts in Randolph. Unless he was at a meeting out of the district or something major came up, he has been at every meeting. He is a great contributor, has a great heart for our kids and for RCS and the surrounding community. As a parent of two boys in the Elementary/Middle School I have had contact with Bill from a parents perspective, and was always thrilled at his even temperment, his ability to take my shy, quiet son who would rather die than be picked out of a crowd and made the center of attention for anything, and ask to come up on the first day of school and punch the principal! My son actually did it, but he never told us of course, to him, nothing really happened that first day. When Bill told me that my son punched him that day at the BOE meeting, I almost stopped breathing for a minute, but then Bill just smiled and explained. He was thinking about my son, even then, giving him a boost to his confidence and self-esteem, and letting him do something that probably every other child would have loved to do (nothing personal Bill, I am sure). I am not sure I ever thanked you for that Bill, I was too stunned when you told me, but I have seen him grow these past two years in the middle school in ways that I could never have imagined. I appreciate what you did, every day, to make him feel comfortable and an “insider” instead of the outsider he thinks he is.
    LIfe’s decisions don’t always seem fair, and they are most times very hard to make. I am so thrilled for you with this new position. I wish you and your family all the best. I am sure we will see you at sporting events thru the years. Thanks for all that you have contributed here. We will miss you.

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