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Monday, December 01, 2014

Dodig to Retire as Staples Principal at End of School Year

UPDATE John Dodig, principal of Westport’s Staples High School since 2004, announced today he will retire at the end of the school year. WestportNow.com Image
John Dodig:“All good things must come to an end.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“All good things must come to an end at some point in time,” Dodig, 70, said in an email to the school community. “That time now has come for me.”

Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon announced Dodig’s retirement at tonight’s Board of Education meeting. “I’m happy for John Dodig, but saddened for all of us,” he said.

“He’s had a monumentally positive impact upon students, parents, staff,” Landon said. Staples “is a much better place than it was before he arrived.”

Landon said he and Marge Cion, director of human resources, would lead the search for a replacement. Cion said she and Landon “had prepared for this” and “there will be a far-reaching and very inclusive selection process.”

Dodig, who was not present at tonight’s Board of Education meeting, joined Staples as interim principal in September 2004 and after an extensive search was named principal in July 2005.

He began his career teaching mathematics at Troup Middle School in New Haven, later becoming assistant principal at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, principal of Cheshire High School, and principal of Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

He served 11 years as Headmaster at Fairfield High School before retiring and then taking the interim Staples job.

“I came to Staples 11 years ago thinking that I would remain for only one year while the superintendent of schools and a committee found a permanent principal,” he said in the email.

“Several months into the position I realized that this was a community in which I had longed to work, and a high school I wanted to lead for several years.

“Something intangible about the people I met told me that my message of love and acceptance would be not only accepted, but embraced. What a great reading of a community that turned out to be for me.”

He added, “It has been an absolute joy to lead this high school these past 11 years. It is the capstone of my career and something I will never forget.”

Dodig last month told a television interviewer that 15 years ago he decided to let people know he was gay.

“I’m in a community that is accepting,” he told News 12 Connecticut. “I’m able to be an advocate not just for gay kids, but all kids that see themselves as being different.

“My goal in life as principal has been to help kids avoid, as much as possible, not carrying a scar for the rest of their lives.”

Here is the full text of Dodig’s email:

All good things must come to an end at some point in time. That time now has come for me. I will retire from this wonderful position as principal of Staples High School at the end of the current school year.

I came to Staples 11 years ago thinking that I would remain for only 1 year while the superintendent of schools and a committee found a permanent principal.

Several months into the position I realized that this was a community in which I had longed to work, and a high school I wanted to lead for several years. Something intangible about the people I met told me that my message of love and acceptance would be not only accepted, but embraced. What a great reading of a community that turned out to be for me.

All of my travels to over 50 countries and my experiences as a teacher in an urban environment, an assistant principal in an affluent suburb and then, a principal in several other communities, helped me understand who I am, what my beliefs are, and what I believe a public high school should and can be.

I spent a few months at Staples and quickly realized that scholarship was supported by everyone, but what was needed was a leader who was not afraid to use the word “love” out loud when speaking about students. It seemed clear to me that Westport and Staples were where I should live and spend the last part of my professional life. I took a chance by applying for the position, and the Board of Education and superintendent of schools took a chance on hiring me.

In this message, I want to take the opportunity to thank all the parents in Westport who have supported me over the past 11 years; the teachers, school counselors and other support staff who have embraced my feelings about high school students, and the administrators who have shared my vision. This very professional team at Staples has made my vision of high school come true.

My four assistant principals are all loving people who understand young men and women. I think what I provided for them was the message that it was OK to use the word “love,” or some other form of the word, when working with teenagers who make mistakes.

Suspending a student for a rules infraction is part of the job. Letting those students know that it is their poor decision and behavior that is being punished, and not the individual, is not something most administrators are able to say. It takes courage and confidence to send that message. These three men and one woman have both.

Without them working with our students every day over four years, guiding them, supporting them, helping them resolve problems and stay focused on what is important in the long term, Staples could not provide the nurturing environment that it does. These assistant principals truly take on the role of parent while our students are in school. I cannot thank them enough.

It has been an absolute joy to lead this high school these past 11 years. It is the capstone of my career and something I will never forget.

I was interviewed on television earlier this year about my career, and was asked if there was a teacher who influenced me in a positive way. I immediately said that Mr. Wilner, my 4th and 5th grade teacher in Queens, NY was that person. It wasn’t what he taught us, but the connection he made with all of us that was so powerful. He liked me and I liked him. I’m sure every student in that class would say the same thing.

That connection he made with me has been my guide for the past 60 years. At the end of the interview I said that I hope that I will be someone’s Mr. Wilner. I hope that many years from now, some Staples grad will look back and say that I helped her or him in a positive way.

Thank you for your support.

—Dave Matlow contributed reporting.

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Posted 12/01/14 at 05:13 PM



Comments

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I am very sad that we are losing such an incredible Principal. This man is the kindest most caring man I know and has really changed Staples High School for the BEST! You will truly be missed John Dodig

Theresa Bairaktaris
Westport

Posted by Theresa Bairaktaris on December 02, 2014 at 09:57 AM | #
 

An awesome man. My children’s developing world view has truly been impacted from the culture of kindness and acceptance he created at Staples.  Westport’s loss.

Posted by Isabelle Breen on December 03, 2014 at 10:31 AM | #
 

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