Q&A with Principal Donovan

by The Dragon Flyer Staff

This interview has been edited with length and clarity. 

What is the funnest part of your job? 

“I have tremendous wonderful friends as teachers and staff who I continue to have fun with. I am a camp counselor at heart and love working with kids. Creating moments like homecoming, that was a beautiful moment. That type of stuff is fun, especially riding the roller coaster at Six Flags.”

What about your job do you wish you could do more?

“I want to work with kids for the rest of my career if possible. I love the teaching jobs that I had and want to keep them going.”

Do you feel like you have enough hands on communication with the students? Do you wish you had more? Is that something you feel is important to being a successful principal?

“I don’t think you can never have enough time with students and I am always trying to get more. I Recently talked to students about personal opinions on some school decisions and about behavioral issues during academic support which resulted in new rules throughout the school.  Although he spends time speaking with students he would like to have more time in class.” 

What is something you would change about DHS?

“I was part of the group who created the school so I don’t have a lot of requests, but I hate the traffic pattern. The school was built for a different traffic pattern but the space doesn’t allow the traffic flow to be how it was originally planned. I also wish we could have a bigger cafeteria and a larger middle school gym. But, I am super grateful for the school we have. It’s like asking for another layer of a birthday cake when you already have three.” 

If you could improve anything in our school without taking in account the price, what would you improve and how? 

“I would love for there to be greater perspective taking. I think sometimes that we lived through this last year, and sometimes we don’t understand the implication of our actions. It is easy for our students to lose perspective on what’s really important in school.” Mr. Donovan also said this about asking kids where they were going to college, “I began to understand how much kids hate the question. The more important question is about what you want to do. I can talk to someone about that. I began to understand that, once I learned that students didn’t want to say because they didn’t want to be judged. For some teachers, we forget how much students can struggle.” 

What are you going to miss most about DHS?

 “I have taught every grade but fourth and kindergarten. I used to walk around Chandler while playing the guitar. I love the town, the students, the people I have worked with, the fire department. When the power goes out at 6:30 in the morning, I get an oppurtunity to talk to Deputy Chief Rearden. I love the Interfaith council. I have spent more time here, at Duxbury Public Schools than I have anywhere else in my life. I love the community, and I feel very grateful to have spent time here. I don’t feel like I can repay anyone enough for my time spent here.”

What do you miss most about being a part of the music department? What made you move away from music? 

“Music was a big part of my life and something that came very naturally to me. I was always listening and playing music growing up. When I got to college, I decided he would get a music degree because if I wanted to change to history, that was an available option. “I actually ended getting an assistant principal degree because it was more flexible”. It was recommended to me because he would be able to do more with that degree. “Eventually there was an opening to work as an assistant principal here at DHS”. I started the application process not thinking much about it and ended up taking the job. I definitely miss being able to conduct and work with music every day. I miss the feeling that I would get when conducting powerful pieces; ‘that part in a piece when the music kind of hangs in the air during a rest and then starts back up again.’”

Would you consider conducting a piece at graduation?

“Graduation is not about me. I’ve had my moment. It’s a really beautiful moment for the kids. I’m not going to take that away from a kid.”

If you were to be given a school superlative, what would it be? 

“Most likely to be seen with a Dunkin Donuts refresher. Definitely.”

On Monday, March 28th, you were spotted in the parking lot checking for the parking decals. Because so few people actually have it, are the punishments for not having the decal going to be enforced?

“People need the parking decals or they will be punished. The school will start handing out tickets, unlike they have before. The reason so many people do not have the decals is because new drivers don’t have spots, so they try to sneak into the lot. Thankfully, they have been catching the ill-parked students.”

With the pandemic, what do you think the pros or cons are of having less standardized testing (optional SATs, no midterms or finals)?

“One of the outcomes, especially last year of the pandemic, was that it forced people to look at what was most important, like students not being able to be physically in school, class length, etc. This changed what we could and couldn’t do. When we moved into this building, the acceleration of education changed because our environment changed. All at once, that was taken away or heavily modified (pandemic). We didn’t have grades to motivate us, and the relationship between teachers and students changed, along with what we wanted from school. This year, we are in a conflict of what we want to keep, and what we want to return to normal. More dissonance this year from last year. Education has changed over the past few years than it did since 100 years ago when the school was built. MCAS is not high stakes, doesn’t see it the same as AP exams or other bigger exams.”

Could the lack of midterms this year lead to the cancellation of finals?

“Not a chance. Seniors still have their exemptions for finals and the cancellation was only due to 200 absences the first 5 days back from break.”

Out of all big school events (prom, senior night out, etc), which is the most difficult to plan?

“I think the first day of school, it’s the least exciting day of the year but the most complicated. The buses are late, the traffic is bad. There aren’t not enough chairs/desks. There are a lot of schedule changes. People aren’t going to the right classrooms or lunches.”

In your opinion, what qualities are important in a principal/leader? 

“It depends on the role of the leader. You have to be credible and humble. If you’re not humble, your job will humble you. Leaders have to listen and understand what is happening. They must seek opinions of people that disagree with them and understand why. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and make promises that you can deliver. Be aware of limitations. You need to trust people in doing their job and support them, because everyone makes mistakes. Have good relationships with other people that work with you. Culture has evolved well in school due to good student leaders and teachers/clubs that love what they do. Leaders must love what they’re doing.”

What is a message or idea you try to spread/teach as your role as principal?

“When I taught choir that life is full of experiences you create together and you’re gonna have to work with people where you control your own part and it’s to develop habits through music that help you through life. Romeo and Juliet doesn’t teach you that. In work as assistant principal is that relationships matter, we all exist in relation to each other. What we do and how we treat each other matters, it’s how we’re judged. In every interaction with students it was my opportunity to teach. I tried to do the same stuff, make sure we could function so students could come to school and we could work together and keep everything running. make people believe we can make it work and to not give up on ourselves.”

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