On Friday, Patch interviewed Waterford High School Principal Don Macrino, 62, in Waterford, meaning his 40th year in education and 17th year as principal will be his last.
We asked him how he made the decision, and what he plans to do once it is over. He said the decision was made “very recently,” and he isn’t planning to “retire, retire,” but instead to continue to work in education with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and other organizations.
“As you reach my age, you constantly think about (retirement),” Macrino said. “I couldn’t tell you an exact day or moment when I made the decision. You sort of just arrive at it, and I began to realize to have a definite goal in place.”
We asked how it is going to be, this last year, knowing it is his last.
“It is a strange feeling,” Macrino said. “I’ve woken up every morning for the last forty years to get ready for work. That is a long time. Now I know that is a bit terminal.”
Unprovoked, Macrino began to talk about his staff. He praised them throughout the rest of the interview, saying it isn’t a group that is going to be easy to leave.
“I love Waterford,” he said. “I love the staff I work with. And I’m not just saying this to have a nice piece in a retirement article... It is really a wonderful, wonderful staff.”
“They are really at a point where they are going to carry Waterford into the next generation of education,” Macrino continued. “That is really hard to walk away from. When you have everything just the way you want it, that is tough to walk away from.”
We asked Macrino why he wanted to stay on next year, and he said – while saying everyone is replaceable - he felt it was best for Waterford to stay on until . He also said he would continue to live in New London and serve on the New London City Council, saying he loved that all three of his children – and now his grandchild – live within a mile of his home.
We asked Macrino what he is most proud of when he looks back at his career in the Waterford and New London school districts. He said breaking down the barriers that often exist between the administration and everybody else.
“There is often times a divide between the administration and the other two entities in the school system, (the staff and the student body),” Macrino said. “I don’t feel that. I feel a closeness to the student body and the staff… There is a real strong sense of that.”
“I like to know that when (students) are faced with problems, they can come and talk with us,” he said. “The greatest joy in my job is to sit down with them and help them through it.”
We noticed when he began to talk about this, it sounded personal – like he was talking about his own children. We followed with how being a father of three helped him being a principal.
That’s when the tone of the interview changed. His words went from relaxed and occasionally playful to slow and introspective, with his speech highlighted by long pauses, seemingly to hold back emotions linked to 40 years of memories.
“It helps enormously,” he said. “I guess the thing that strikes me all the time is how fortunate my kids are. To have a strong family and people to rely on… And I’ve dealt with so many kids that haven’t had that... So you try to give it to them.”