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!