Today I Said Goodbye To The School I Love

My retirement from public K-12 education began today.

I was fortunate that there weren’t too many people there to see me as I left the building. I must have been a sight to see. A grown man, a guy in his mid-50’s, face full of tears and sadness, walking away from a school… my school; the school I led for 14 wonderful years.

I was, it is, it will always be, a special school – a magical place for kids and adults. It is a magical place even for the principal. It’s a special school, a school defined by caring and love and respect and kindness. It is a school where the teachers truly care about kids. And it is a school where the teachers find and create innovative ways to teach the children.

“Out-of-the-box” thinking is “in-the-box” at that school because it’s the norm. It’s the way it all operates.

And it works. It works so well that most people who don’t live the life of that school don’t understand. In short, when teachers invest in their craft, it shows – school becomes a place where children smile and learn and where they grow. School becomes a place where kids grow… happily.

Schools should not be all about curriculums and test scores and data, and all of that. They aren’t (or shouldn’t be) places about forms and paperwork and checklists and rubrics. Sadly, too many schools are. Instead, schools need to be, in fact they must be, places that are all about children. This is a school that’s all about children.

Test scores matter. Data matters. Curriculums matter. All to a point. But kids and love and happiness and fun and creativity and respect and hard work and positivity matter more. Those things will always matter more than a writing unit, a math textbook, or a standardized assessment.

Enthusiastic teachers create classroom environments where students thrive. Teachers who embrace innovation also embrace failure which creates a world where children take academic risks, fail, and get up and try again. The teachers and the children at this school (in the words of Theodore Roosevelt), “if they fail, they fail while daring greatly.” But most often they succeed. The school works because the teachers and the community all work together for the school – for the kids.

I had been an educator for 32 years. The last 26 years of my career, I was an administrator, 24 of those years I served as a principal. I loved every stop of my journey, but I never loved a place as much as I loved this school. It was the best. I have great memories – a lifetime of memories.

It was time for me to pass the baton and to retire. I never wanted to be an old principal, a guy who left his best years behind him. I wanted to go out while I was still as close to my best as I could possibly be. But even with that, while I have no regrets, while I know I made the right choice, it was sad, heart-breaking in fact, to walk away, for the final time from a place that was part of my very essence.

I don’t think there was ever a principal who loved a school more than I loved my school. I loved it absolutely and unconditionally. I was glad to be there. I loved being there. I loved everything about it.

I miss it already. A ton. More than that. I miss it already more than I can express with words. Part of me is gone forever.

Retirement promises to be wonderful and it will be a great and a special time. I have so much lined up that I won’t be bored or lonely. I know that. I have dreams and aspirations. I have a wonderful book coming out in April 2023 and another probably in December of that year. I have marathons to run. I have family to see and spend quality time with. (I’m going to have a catch with my dad every week. What could be better than that?) I have places to travel to. I have a life to live with my loving wife – time for us, finally, together, to relish in and enjoy… and so much more. So much to do and to see and to live.

But even with that, even with bright prospects, even knowing that it was my time to say goodbye…it was hard. It is difficult. It is almost impossible to fathom.

Walking away from a place I love…

The new principal is amazing. She is so wonderful. We spent the entire summer together planning the transition. I love that we had that time. I love that she is the one to replace me. I love that she’ll keep the school on the right track moving ever forward. I know that the school is in great hands. I even know that she’ll be a better principal than I ever was. It comforts me to know all of that. I know the kids and the staff and the community are in great hands. I’m happy for them. So very happy. And I am happy for her. She’ll get to live the life I did and bask in the joy of a school that works and works well.

But, even with all of that. It’s was still difficult, extremely difficult, almost impossible, to say goodbye.

It’s tough to drive away from a place you love. And boy did I love that school.

I loved the kids and the teachers and the staff and the parents. I loved it all. Still do. We never stop loving, even if we leave.

I always reminded the parents to love their children unconditionally. I think they know that I loved that entire school community unconditionally. Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye. When you love something, that’s how it should be.

Life goes on. Leadership changes. Change is good and necessary. None of us are forever. WE are all replaceable.

I know it was never about me. People told me I was great at what I did. They said I was an amazing principal. Maybe that’s true. I just know that I loved what I did and that I gave it my all. I invested myself entirely. And if I was good, or great, it’s just because I was a reflection of the goodness and the greatness, the kindness, and the love that always surrounded me. I look forward to visiting the school and reading to the students again, and so much more. But it’s now time for the new principal to shine – as I know she will.


It’s okay to cry. It’s okay for a grown man to cry. Even when you make the right decision, it can be sad. It’s not easy to walk away. Tears are part of that.

Life moves ever forward… I’m excited about where mine will now go.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not sad today and that I won’t be sad for a while, because today I said goodbye to a place and the people I love.


6 thoughts on “Today I Said Goodbye To The School I Love

  1. A beautiful sharing Dr. Sem, congratulations on your retirement! You were an awesome Principal at each and every school that you were a part of….we were blessed to have you lead the path for our children. You will be missed greatly. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to our children and to our families, we love you! Now go have some fun 🙂 !
    The Calianese Family


  2. Dr Sem, “Doctor “ you are leaving Hawes a true champion. Your infectious smile and incredible attitude will be missed by all. I’m so thankful and grateful both my children were truly blessed to have you as their Principal. You will go down in history as my favorite Principal of all time. All the Best! The Cavagnuolo’s


  3. Dr Sem
    Your bright smile will never dim in our household. Our boys were lucky to have such a wonderful principal during such formative years. Thank you for your kindness as that always matters.


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