The longest-serving principal ever at the Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS) has announced that this will be his final year in education.
Mike Little, who has held the job since 2003, filed his retirement papers in mid-February. His retirement takes effect at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
“I've spent 46 years either giving tests or taking tests, and I think it's time to change,” said Little. “I've been out of university now for about 32 years, and the time has come. My age and experience lets me retire without any penalties, so by this June, I'll be done.”
Little isn't sure what he'll be doing next, but he expects that it will be something completely different, as he wants a new adventure.
He started his education career more than 30 years ago in Loreburn, which is on the shores of Lake Diefenbaker. He went there thinking it would be a one-year stint, but he stayed in the small town for nine years.
After taking a one-year sabbatical so that he and his wife, Lynn, could obtain their masters of education in Idaho, they relocated to southeast Saskatchewan.
Mike Little spent the next seven years as a principal in Carlyle, while his wife worked at other schools in the region. They relocated to Estevan in 2000 when he became the principal at Pleasantdale School. He stayed there for three years, and then took the job at ECS.
“We've enjoyed it here,” said Little. “It's been a great move for us and our family.”
His 10 years at the Comp. means that he has held the top job longer than anybody else in the school's 44-year history.
“I saw the pictures (of the other principals) out there, but I never gave it much thought that I was the longest-serving,” said Little. “I thought some other people had been here longer than me.”
He admits that the last 10 years have gone by very quickly.
“It seems like just yesterday I was walking the hallways, and trying to figure out where everything was in this big building, and amazed at how many kids it could host, and how many support staff worked in this building,” said Little.
He compared ECS to a small city, as about 1,000 people buzzing through the school's hallways each day. And he estimates that the school has had about 2,000 grads since he arrived.
His successor hasn't been named, yet, but Little said the next principal at ECS will need organizational skills and an ability to work with people.
“You can't allow yourself to be stuck behind this desk doing paperwork,” said Little. “Your job is to be out in the hallways: meeting, greeting, patrolling and dealing with issues that are out there. Paperwork can be done late at night and early in the morning, but during school hours, you need to be visible.”
Education has changed a lot over the years, he said. The governance structure in Saskatchewan is very different than it was 10 years ago. When he arrived at the Comp., the school had its own board comprised of trustees from three different school boards. Now ECS is one of 39 schools in a school division that covers southeast Saskatchewan.
“Paperwork has improved immensely,” said Little. “There's more accountability, more planning that has to be done, and checks and balances that have to be done.”
Technology has also brought a lot of changes. Programs such as HomeLogic, which allows parents and students to keep up-to-date on student achievement, have improved communication between the school and students.
“New curriculum is always interesting, with how they've come out with outcome-based curriculum,” said Little. “How we have to mark and evaluate on that is different, but it's all for good.”
He admits he'll miss the people more than anything else.
“This is a people-oriented business,” said Little. “You're working with teachers and kids everyday. That is the best part about this business, is working with people. Good and bad things happen everyday, but the good far outweighs the bad.”
One of his final duties as principal will be his speech to the Grade 12s at the school's graduation ceremony. He said there will be a strange feeling when he delivers his remarks, as not only will he be saying farewell to the graduates, he'll be closing the door on his education career.
And he recognizes it will feel different in September, when, for the first time in nearly half a century, he won't be taking a test, or administering an exam. He says he has always wanted to take a holiday in September so that he could travel east and watch the leaves change colour. It's something he could do now, but it likely won't happen for a few more years, when his wife is eligible to retire, and then they can travel together.