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Almost ten years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to begin my educational leadership career at NMHS. (Thank goodness my wife made me apply for this job.) At age 29, I was hungry and eager to begin down a path of becoming an administrator and following in the footsteps of my father. Little did I know that these ten years would profoundly shape me as a leader, educator, and person. After weathering a storm of central office instability, I moved up the ranks from athletic director, vice principal, and finally high school principal, a position I have held for the past seven years. These past ten years have been an amazing inspirational journey where I have seen firsthand what is possible in education.
New Milford High School has been my second home, which on some days could even be considered my primary place of residence. From the minute I saw the massive pillars and entered into the hallowed halls, I knew this was a special place. Once becoming principal, I honestly thought I would retire at a nice age of 60 or more. The community welcomed me with open arms and I inherited a staff eager to grow and learn. I can’t say enough great things about my staff, past and present. Each and every one of them has played a huge role in transforming the learning culture at NMHS. They make me look good every day and push me constantly to be a better leader and learner. Watching some of the teachers I have hired grow and mature into exceptional educators has been extremely gratifying. My staff, along with the students, are the true catalysts of change at NMHS. For it is they who made the choice to go down the road less traveled five years ago when we began transforming our learning culture.
Then there is my administrative team at the high school. Jerry, Joe, and Mary have been with me in some sort of capacity since the beginning in 2004. I could not do what I do, nor have experienced success, without the three of them. Their support, honesty, feedback, and willingness to take constructive feedback allowed us to gel into a cohesive unit. We haven’t had a formal, scripted meeting in years as we are always communicating and collaborating throughout the day. The level of trust and confidence we have had in one another allowed each of us to focus on our respective duties. By valuing each other’s time and working as a team in the purest sense we were able to move a growth oriented agenda forward on all fronts.
Last, but definitely not least are the students. I always brag at home and on the road how amazing the students at NMHS are. They continuously inspire me with their creative thought, honesty, and desire to make the most out of their high school experience. Over the years they have been given more ownership over all aspects of their education experience and have taken advantage of it by helping us to redefine teaching and learning for a new age. After all, it was my students who ultimately shed light on my early failures as a leader and gave me the kick in the butt that I needed to give up certain amounts of control and learn to trust them. We all go into education to positively impact the life of a child. All I can say is that the students of NMHS have positively impacted me each and every day during my tenure. They have pushed me to become a leader that tried his best to create a school that worked for them as opposed to one that always worked well for the adults. Without my students I would not be where I am today.
Based on the incredible environment I have described above many people are probably confused as to why I would leave. The work we have done at NMHS has been embraced in ways that I could never have imagined. My passion now is to assist more schools and educators in initiating and sustaining the types of changes leading to cultural transformation that we have implemented at NMHS. This is why I will be joining Scholastic at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) and with Scholastic Achievement Partners (SAP) as a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership. You can check out the official ICLE press release by clicking HERE. Our main goal will be to create and provide a practitioner-driven professional learning solution that encapsulates the innovative learning pathways that many connected educators embrace. There is a dire need to support educators in the areas of digital leadership and learning while exposing them to non-traditional learning pathways. I don’t see any better way than building a solution with a foundation of practitioners who are leading and teaching this way in schools.
In order to stay relevant myself, part of my new responsibilities will be maintaining a residency in schools, mostly in the Northeast (as of October 2014 I am now also the K-12 Director of Technology and Innovation for the Spotswood School District in NJ). While leaving New Milford is extremely painful I cannot wait to get into other local schools to help them improve their communications, bring attention to their innovative programs through enhanced public relations, promote connected learning/leadership, and work to initiate sustainable change. Other major responsibilities with my new position will be a continued focus on writing books, blogging, connecting with educators, conducting workshops/presentations, and delivering keynotes.
The bottom line with my decision comes down to impact. I want all districts, schools, and educators across the globe to experience what we have created and sustained at New Milford HS. I also want to be able to share the stories of the amazing practitioners who are doing the real, impactful work to authentically improve education. It is my hope that this new beginning can help more leaders, educators, and schools transform education in a way that provides all students with the skills to succeed in a digital world.