Keep the Pride Alive…An Open Letter to the Family I’m Leaving

Well, today makes the last day that teachers will be in the school building, the day that starts the summer vacations, trainings, conferences, etc.  It’s an ending, but also a time of new beginnings for many of us.  Yesterday, my boss asked me if it had hit me yet, the fact that I wouldn’t be there next year, and I told her that I hadn’t thought about it.  It’s a bittersweet thing to be a part of, like leaving your family to start off on a new venture.  The one thing I know for sure is that one will never get closer to the goal by running in place, and I know that it’s time for me to run on.

Four years ago, I was a bit worried about my school.  It was the only place I’d been, and although we’d made some progress, we were going to have our third principal for the third year in a row.  I knew that I wanted to go into administration, and I was not sure of what was to come, so I found myself

in a posture of prayer- hoping and praying that a change would come to the place where I’d had my start.  I’d invested a lot of time into the students there, and I’d made a name for myself in the community, but one thing I always wanted to focus on was the students.  Stephanie Sanders taught me that during my first year- always focus on the young people whose lives you’re there to impact.  So I prayed and asked God to lead the way, and I met Dr. Taylor.  I was open with her and told her everything that had happened at Carver from my starting day to the time she’d gotten there.  I told her about the highs and the lows, the things points of pride that people enjoyed and the things that caused fragments of frustration.  I also told her my intentions because I was looking to move on myself.  I was ready to be a leader.  It was ingrained in me from working with an awesome Language Arts team over the years- Ms. Ray, Mr. Lee, Ms. Foster, Ms. Sanders, Ms. Goodman, Ms. Harkness, just an excited group of educators that wanted to make a difference.  And now, here I was ready to put that into play.  And Dr. Taylor took a chance with me.  A young, 30 year old guy with big ambitions.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I didn’t know what I would learn, but I was excited and I was willing to do the work.  I had a vision of the impact I wanted to have on teachers and students, but I also knew that my personal vision had to be aligned with her vision for the school.  During that first year, we had some long conversations and we learned one another’s strengths and growth areas.  We were both new, but we were driven, and the teachers trusted us.  That first year solidified what school should be, and we continued to grow and nurture  what we deemed to be #2185Pride.  There was buy in there, and the faculty and staff were excited to be headed down a road to greatness.  I was just happy to be a part of it.

So I took in all that I could and built relationships with people all around me.  I was able to travel and network with different people, and everyday was just an awesome day to be an educator.  Sometimes, I went home tired, with loads of work to still do, but the work is what kept me going.  The community started to trust what the school was doing, and we started to get recognized for the work.  Even when we did great things that were overlooked by others, our slogan was always, “We just have to keep doing the work,” and “We gone make it.”  Yes- just like that.  And Mrs. Douglas and I would start singing the “We Gonna Make It” song.  And that’s what we did.  We made it!  We did the work, and we struggled, and we didn’t know everything.   We made some mistakes, our teachers made some mistakes, and our students and parents made some mistakes, but we were all there- together- working towards a common goal, which was to build into the lives of those young people.  That was and continues to be the focus of the work that we were doing.  And after the couple of years, we found the work paying off, and we became a Model School, and we were able to go share the work we were doing with others.  We were an operational PBIS school, and we were able to share that work as well.   We had and still have some great things going on at Carver.  Being one of the teachers that had been there since the school opened, I was just happy to see all of the hard work finally paying off.  It had taken nine years….imagine that.

Some people had left, and they didn’t get a chance to experience the recognition and great accomplishments, but they’d played a role in the work we did.  We learned together and always challenged one another.  We didn’t always agree (that’s the admin team, the grade level teams, the faculty and admin, etc.), but we operated with the scope of changing lives.  LIVES ARE AT STAKE!  And we knew that the work we did could ultimately determine if a life was changed or if a life was at risk.  We knew that we held the tools the students needed to go out and make a difference, and that was part of the problem- WE held the tools, but our students were the ones that needed them.  So we worked, and worked, and had “stand up” and meetings on top of meetings and looked at endless mounds of data, and made changes and hard decisions, and moved people around and trained new people, and retrained ourselves, and studied and worked, and worked, and worked!  We never gave up., and we were never satisfied, despite the recognition.  I learned that there was always work to do and to never become complacent.  When complacency enters the picture, then growth staggers, and when growth staggers or halts, we have a problem! But we were open with our faculty and staff, and all of us were accountable.  There were things that were expected from the leaders of the school, and there were expectations of the other stakeholders.  I can recall Mrs. Douglas taking numerous 8th grade students into the conference room after getting into trouble in the classroom and asking them about their Lexiles and grades.  Most times, they weren’t where they needed to be, and during those times, she was able to communicate to them through tough love, telling them that they didn’t have time to play around and that nobody should care about them more than they care about themselves.  Life lessons were happening throughout the building.  Teachers were visiting kids’ games on the weekends, and staying late and coming early for tutorial sessions and giving 150%.  And it was all because lives were at stake…and we wanted to make an impact on them, and I believe we did.


So as I look back and reflect on all the things that we’ve done, I will admit that I will miss my family at Carver.  I will miss the laughs, and smiles and hugs, the hard conversations, and just the general love that each of you have.  I’ll miss the students and the families that I’ve taught (yes, families that I’ve taught), and I’ll miss all of the people that have had an impact on me.  Whether I engaged with you daily or sometimes, know that your work has played a role in preparing me for the journey that lies ahead.  Know that your work has an impact on students, and that you make a difference everyday.  Know that you too will be leaving on to another journey one day, so take in all that you can and never take anything for granted- never take anyone for granted because together, you make a difference.  My #2185Pride will never go away.  My love and prayers for each of you will never go away.  You have had a huge impact on this young man who came to Carver at 24 years of age and morphed into an educational leader in 10 years’ time.  You all did that.  You trusted me, you cared for me, and you had a genuine love for me, and I will never forget that.  You have stitched your names into my life, and I pray that each of you will continue to make the community and students at Carver Road better.  And because I hate to say goodbye, I won’t.  I’m only an email or a phone call away, so for now, I’ll say- See you later.

I love you guys!

With a final message of #2185Pride,

Dr. G.

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