Last week’s announcement that Ellsworth Middle School Principal Jim Newett will retire at the end of June brought many people up short. He’s been the middle school principal for so long — 29 years — it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t.
The jarring thought that someone else will fill the role next year might be accompanied by the belief that Newett is irreplaceable. That would be an understandable reaction. Who else could maintain that level of compassion and commitment? Who else would be so tireless an advocate for middle school students and teachers? Who else would put in those six- and sometimes seven-day workweeks, nights included?
The fact is, a principal must be replaceable. All leaders are replaceable. But that doesn’t mean a leader can be duplicated. The next principal of the Ellsworth Middle School will have his or her own attributes and style, which is as it should be. With skill and effort, the next principal will earn the trust, confidence and gratitude of the community, just as Mr. Newett has done. He’s not irreplaceable. But one can definitely make a case for unforgettable.