Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The End is Only the Beginning

This is one of those difficult posts where I honestly am having trouble articulating my thoughts. It is bittersweet, as the time has come for me to make a decision on my future.  Today is the day that I formally announce my decision to step down as New Milford High School Principal, a decision that has been most difficult to make. My last day will be September 3.  The decision making process has been excruciatingly painful as the entire New Milford Community means more to me than many will ever know.  


Image credit: http://thefashionatefotobug.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Anewbeginning.jpg

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. 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.

27 comments:

  1. I wish you the best friend and I know you will do incredible things in the new postion.

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  2. Best of luck! Continue to inspire!

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  3. Congratulations!! I appreciate your sincerity in your post.

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  4. Best of luck I have enjoyed following your blog and hope you can still find a way (and the time) to share with us.

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  5. What a wonderful experience you have had and I look forward to your story as it continues. You will continue to do great things.

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  6. Eric, You are always a passionate teacher at heart in any role. There's a big world of education out there needing your skills and inspiration! Can't wait to see and hear more!
    Congratulations!!

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  7. Congrats and thanks for already providing such energy and inspiration to so many, like me. I love this line, "They make me look good every day and push me constantly to be a better leader and learner," and I need to say this to our staff more than I already do. Good luck on your new adventure!

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  8. Wow- Eric you were one of the four who hired me, taking a chance on someone from the corporate world who wanted to make a difference in the education world. I am forever grateful! I miss working with you already!! I wish you only the best and much continued success!!!

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  9. Eric, I can appreciate how difficult it is to leave a school such as yours. I made a similar decision recently. As you said, there is a larger world that can benefit from your experience. The change you helped bring forward at NMHS will continue because it is part of the culture. All the best in your new position!

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  10. Wow.....high impact venture for a high impact leader...congrats and thank you!

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  11. Eric,
    The students of NMHS have been very fortunate to have you as their principal. We're thankful our children were able to experience your leadership. The minds and doors you opened through the use of technology as been amazing! All the best of luck on your NEW beginning...but be sure to stay in touch...via Twitter/Facebook/etc!!
    ;o) Susan & Rick Kaprielian and family
    ***Does this mean NMHS won't have the technology conference anymore ;o(

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  12. Congratulations Eric! You will do a phenomenal job! Continued success in your educational journey!

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  13. Congrats Eric! I am continually inspired by your passionate journey and can't wait to learn more from you in your next venture!

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  14. Hello Eric and congratulations on your new opportunity! Your school will miss you, but your impact on learning and education will continue to grow. Will you be changing your Twitter handle? Best wishes on your new endeavor - we are all pulling for you!

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  15. Best wishes to you as you start a new journey!

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  16. best of luck Eric!. Have learned so much from you. I know how it feels to be so connected to the school community, the parents, the students, the staff. everyone's part of the family! Look forward to learning with you!!

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  17. Although a devastating loss for the students of New Milford High School, I hope that your mission can be carried forward and I am sure you will never turn your back on the school. On a personal note this opportunity sounds like you will be given the wings to expand your wings and assist the nation's educational system.

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  18. WOW - thank you all so much for the support and encouragement!

    Susan K. - Edscape will go on as planned this year at NMHS. It will be most likely moved next year depending on where I take up my school residence.

    Adam - I will NEVER turn my back on NMHS. I still hope to share the innovative work being undertaken by so many amazing educators there.

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  19. Good Luck! Your impact will be heard round the world! Continue to do great things!!!!

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  20. New Milford's loss is such an incredible gain for so many other students who will benefit from your "impact."

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  21. From the Midwest and more specifically Alexandria-Monroe intermediate, congratulations as you expand your classroom. Your insight and communication have helped us as we leap forward in our school.

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  22. Eric thank you for putting your thoughts down into words. Having the courage to leave your position and take on a new journey shows great courage and much selflessness. Your example has been an inspiration to all of us that follow you. In Good to Great Jim Collins mentions how when great leaders leave their organizations they continue to be great. I am certain New Milford High will always excel because your echoes will continue to be heard throughout its hallways. I look forward to continuing to learn from you.

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  23. Congratulations. I look forward to contacting you as a potential partner in our transition in Wenatchee. You are an inspirational leader and have given me many tools to help our leadership team in their transition to relevant education for our students.

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