Brookside Assistant Principal retires – again

By Michele Murphy

Westshore – Retiring Brookside High School Assistant Principal Bill Hamilton was in a reflective mood and admits he was experiencing some melancholy on the final day of school.

He looks forward to having more time to himself and spending time with his family – wife, Kathy, their two sons and four granddaughters. He plans to serve as a Guardian ad Litum (GAL) to protect children and teens involved in legal matters in the courts, and help out with various mission programs at his church.

“But, these kids…” his voice drifts off and his eyes moisten as he refers to the students at Brookside High.

Hamilton had been officially retired four years when he received a call from Superintendent Mike Cook about meeting to discuss the assistant principal job. He laughs when he recalls telling Cook he needed to talk with his wife about the mere possibility of returning to work before agreeing to the request.

The big, genial man had not really slowed his schedule in retirement. He was trained and served as a GAL, a special advocate to protect the interests of a minor child in legal proceedings. Often these children are abused, neglected or in foster care. Hamilton says the experience helped him understand the impact of domestic violence, for example, on a child, and the resulting impact on their academic success and behavior.

When he agreed to accept the position of assistant principal, Hamilton determined to begin the year doing something he had done for 30 years as a teacher, then principal, at Avon Lake’s Learwood Middle School and as principal for 11 years at Lorain County Academy, an alternative school for middle school students who are struggling academically or behaviorally.

He stood at the front door every morning and said, “Good morning.” He says this is the way he began to know both students and staff to build relationships. As far as Hamilton is concerned, anything good or bad that happens will be based on the kind of relationships one has. As he puts it, “If there’s no relationship, you get nothing.”

From there, he began to extend his hand, asking for a shake or grip. He says, two years in, he now just extends his hand and kids know to grip it back in greeting.

Hamilton says this is actually a part of the job he likes best because each month during the school year, he is the one who is designated to distribute certificates and shake the hands of kids who are recognized as part of the school’s pro-social/emotional initiative called Cardinal Program.

As the school year proceeded, he coupled his efforts to get to know and build relationships with two other actions he believes are critically important in working with students and reinforcing relationships. “You start with listening. You let them know you are interested. Then you follow through, helping them with problem-solving so they are able to make a decision,” said Hamilton.  He says he has frequent contact with kids about academics, behavior or attendance. He keeps watch over kids by reviewing data that could be an indicator something is amiss. If he sees something that concerns him, he invites a student in for a chat. Others are sent to him.

Despite his full daily schedule, Hamilton frequently attended school events including sports, band, choir concerts, even prom. He and his wife made a special effort to attend away games for the basketball and volleyballs teams. He grins as he recalls seeing kids whisper and elbow each other when they saw them at their games.

Hamilton says things will now be quiet and that he will miss the routine and those faces.

He grew wistful again as he describes letters of thanks he receives out of the blue, or being stopped by a former student at a store or on the street. He is occasionally invited for a game of golf or to share a meal, which clearly delights him.

Hamilton admits he wasn’t sure what he might be getting into when he accepted the assistant principal post. After all, he had been out of the education environment several years, and realized things were constantly changing. Now he says he will always be grateful to Cook and Principal Brent Schremp for recruiting him to a job he fell in love with.

In the two years he served as assistant principal, Hamilton hoped to have a positive impact on teachers and students alike. He asks himself, “Did I leave a footprint someplace?” Then answers, “I hope so.”

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