Waite High educators saw a glimpse of what kind of superintendent Dr. Romules Durant will be when he spoke before a crowd of 150 current and retired educators at a luncheon held to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary.
Don’t expect him to stay behind his desk doing “superintendent work.” He told the audience that when someone had asked if he was going to give up mentoring two groups, Young Men of Excellence and Young Women of Excellence, he replied he would not stating, “Superintendent work is to serve students. I have to be grounded by their presence. I have to be grounded with their interaction to truly understand what they are going through in today’s times.”
|Top: At Waite's Centennial Educators Lunch are Tom and Sam Szor,
with home economics teacher Deb Eversman. Bottom left: Keynote
speaker Lois Bolander Garber chats with Judy Benton Price. Bottom
right: Prinicpal Dave Yenrick. (Press photos by Ken Grosjean)
That’s a refreshing approach and one that all of Toledo hopes will help Toledo Public Schools improve on its D to F ratings and a graduation rate that hovers around 65 percent.
Dr. Durant, who was the interim superintendent for five months, was given a five-year contract in December by the Toledo Board of Education. He is a University of Toledo grad and, last Friday, he had the honor of addressing the teachers who taught him at Waite where he graduated in 1994.
If his words are any indication of what’s to come, he will be a walking emissary to urban youth about the value of family, discipline, pride and passion. Here is a sampling of what he said:
•“No matter how much success I have I always see myself as no more than an East Side kid who listened to his parents and his teachers. It’s those support systems that made me the way I am;
•“Waite High developed (in me) humbleness. Understand that when you’re an educator you have to have a humbleness about yourself because you come here to serve the underserved. Those who are underserved most today are students and children;
•“There’s never been an educator at Waite High School who I have known that wasn’t passionate about what they did. I always tell the kids when they are choosing a career, ‘Be passionate about it. You should mentally feel like you are the LeBron James of what you do. If I’m in the classroom, LeBron James can’t touch me, but he can own the court. If I’m in a hospital room, LeBron James can own the court, but he can’t own the hospital room because I’m passionate and I’m where I want to be.”
Dr. Durant also talked about the effect his parents, especially his father, had on him as he was growing up. His father coached little league football and the game became a structure for how they lived. “Everything was tied around football and discipline. Sometimes I would get sick of it. My father would say ‘The same reason why you forgot to wash that tub was the same reason you let that tight end slip behind you.’”
It must have been gratifying for those who taught and coached him at Waite to see he had retained the lessons they tried to instill in him. If he can instill that same energy and dedication to learning, discipline and family in this generation of TPS students he just might make a difference district-wide.
Dr. Durant was one of a number of educators who spoke to the group. Others included Kevin Dalton, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, Lois Bolander Garber, a retired business teacher, who gave the keynote address, and Dave Yenrick, Waite’s 10th principal in 100 years. Co–chair persons were Carolyn Yenrick and Gabriele Iwanhoff.
Dave Yenrick talked about the tradition of service to the community that Waite faculty, students and alumni have cultivated. Over the years, the alumni association has awarded $1 million in scholarships and funded improvements at the school totaling some $580,000. This year, the Waite community provided 101 families with holiday baskets and donated 175 pints of blood.
One goal for 2014 is to raise $3,600 to send nine more veterans on Honor Flight to Washington D.C. In recent years, Waite has raised $6,400 and sent 11 local vets to the World War II Memorial. This year will also mark the 99th year the Waite community has held its Memorial Day Service to honor fallen soldiers.
Notables in attendance were Sam and Tom Szor, Dick Fisher, Bill Nopper, Paul Gibbs, Bob and Jean Clark, Jack Gump and Christine Krygielski, a business teacher who gave a power point presentation culled from 100 years of Waite yearbooks.
The event was one of a number of events that took place last school year and this year. The anniversary celebration will culminate May 10th with a dinner-dance at the SeaGate Center.
The historic school, which opened in 1914, was built on the site of what was once an Ottawa Indian village. At one time, Waite housed more than 2,000 students. Today, the student population is 815.