Unlike some of our journalistic colleagues, we do not consider it the duty of newspapers to second guess every decision of government.
For that reason, we kept our opinion of the Polk County School District’s decision to move Bartow High School Principal Ron Pritchard into a pre-retirement holding pattern as principal of an adult school until his retirement at year’s end.
Pritchard has done an outstanding job at BHS, one of Polk County’s largest — and best — high schools, and we didn’t see the point, or the fairness, in moving him out of the mainstream of education for the last half-year of his career.
We joined more than a hundred of his professional colleagues, present and former students, and members of the community at a retirement program honoring Pritchard at the Bartow Civic Center on Thursday afternoon.
And we were pleased when he sent out an email to his former faculty and staff Friday morning, some 14 hours later, announcing that his recommendation for Emilean Clemons, assistant principal at BHS for the past 10 years, had been approved.
And we received with excitement, and a touch of amazement, his announcement just 10 hours later that his final assignment had been changed back to Bartow High School, where he graduated in 1970 and where he served for 10 years as assistant principal and 13 years as principal.
“This caught me totally by surprise,” he said in an email sent to faculty and staff a few minutes after
5 o’clock Friday afternoon, “but I have to admit I am happy to be able to finish my career at my true home with people I love and respect.”
We suspect that both “surprise” and “happy” are understatements for Pritchard, and we know that many in the community share those sentiments.
We commend newly-hired School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy, on the job for only one week, for this decision.
Pritchard said he and Mrs. Clemons “will work together as a team to make sure we have a seamless transition.”
Perhaps the knowledge of that teamwork was a factor in the decision to leave Pritchard in the job until his retirement on Dec. 31. He is not a grandstander, and mentoring his assistant principal for the next seven months will serve everyone involved.
At least three things of significance came out in a video presentation and in staff and faculty comments at Pritchard’s now-premature retirement party last Thursday:
• Pritchard is a stabilizing force for staff and faculty. When finding themselves at their wit’s end, they could go to Pritchard for counsel, knowing they would leave his office reassured.
• Whenever a parent or student wanted to see him, he was available; no appointment was required.
• Whenever a decision needed to be made about a student, his guidance was simple: do what is best for the kid.
Welcome back, Ron.
We missed you, even if it was for only 24 hours.