Friday, May 18, 2007
Retiring Principal Art Dulong reflects on his years at CCHS
After six years as the principal of Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) Art Dulong will be retiring at the end of June. Dulong was recently asked to reflect on his years at the high school and this is what he had to say.
Fostering a caring community
"My overall goal was to oversee a school where people really care about each other," Dulong said. "I've tried to get the point across that we are a student-focused place. I've gotten people to work cooperatively. We've clarified expectations and we have involved students in the decision making as much as possible."
A few years ago, Dulong cancelled all dances at CCHS because of inappropriate behaviors. "I enlisted students to set a more appropriate mood and expectations." While he admits, "They are not perfect," he feels the dances now are more like what high school dances should be.
Challenges faced by new principal
When asked what challenges the next principal might have, Dulong said, "The physical structure will continue to be a challenge." He pointed out the difficulties caused by the lack of spaces needed for students, classes, conferences and storage. Ongoing maintenance and needed repairs will also be a concern for the new principal.
"Another challenge over the next four to five years will be handling the continued rapid pace of retirement. New people will have to be hired that fit in here. We need to maintain work on closing the achievement gap." He said Joe Hehn, Chair of Special Education, will need support to continue this effort.
When Dulong was asked how world events have affected the school community, he replied, "Well, the first Tuesday of the job was 9-11. That had a dramatic impact. It changed how people think about their personal safety. It changed our views on school security." The President's policies on Iraq have not been popular at the high school, and Dulong worked to avoid student "walk-outs" and other disruptive movements by involving teachers that know the students and could talk to them about their strong feelings.
"Lots of time has been spent creating crisis plans," said Dulong. He says staff and students speak up when they feel something is not right. He thinks this is why there is almost no fighting at CCHS, "Kids find people to help them [before things escalate]."
Life skills missing
When asked how we could better prepare our students for the world they will live in, he suggested that students aren't allowed to fail. They don't experience failure. "Life here is so wonderful kids aren't prepared for the ups and down of life." He said he misses courses on life skills such as personal finance, business, home economics, child care, wood shop and metal shop. "We're really a college prep school. Most kids are going for the executive or white collar world. Still, it would be helpful even for them to know how to buy a house or a car, how to invest money and how to raise children."
"We have about 5% of students not going to college. That's about 15 kids. There are no real courses for them." They get jobs in art and digital imaging. He added that students are served by the fact that there are several levels of math and science courses.
Dulong feels that the needs of gifted students are met. "There are a fair amount of opportunities for those kids to express themselves. There are the Ruettger's Seminars (roughly 25 students attend these evening classes), a Social Studies and a Math Consortium, Senior Projects and a variety of academic-based clubs such as the Academic Bowl, the Science Olympiad and the Math Team.
When asked about self-injurious and abusive behaviors among teens, Dulong said, "I wish I had a solution. The problem is everywhere. There are several organizations in town that are key pieces [to solving] that." He said the Teen Alliance, the Center for Parents and Teachers, the network of churches and other groups work together to help kids make good decisions. "The biggest reason [these kids act out] is that they don't feel cared about by the adults around them. We must keep at it. Adults must be available and take leadership roles."
When asked what he is proud of, Dulong had a lot to say. "I have been able to manage the school through some difficult financial times. We didn't lose things that directly impacted students. We even expanded a few things that directly impact students in the areas of Art, Music, Sports and academic offerings. We have added Chinese 3 and 4, Statistics and Honors Statistics, a full year course in algebra, an AP computer course, expanded math topics, applied physics and a physics with calculus class and world literature. Forensics and meteorology courses will be added next fall. I have earned the trust of the parents and the community." Five out of six overrides have passed during Dulong's time at CCHS. "I'm leaving the school in pretty good shape."
Dulong says, "I have no firm plans this summer." His family is taking a cruise to celebrate his retirement. He expects to spend time thinking about what he wants to do. He might possibly mentor principals.
Students, former students, parents and other community members are invited to a farewell reception for him to be held on Wednesday, May 23
© 2007 The