John Ritchie: We’re here together, so let’s have fun and let’s work.
If you knew you would be a part of a community for only one year, what would you do?
The infinite number of answers to this question is what makes the position of interim principal so unique. Wayland High School’s interim principal for the 2013-2014 school year, John Ritchie, who is working here while the search to replace former WHS principal Patrick Tutwiler continues, talked to WSPN about his plans for the year and his philosophy on education.
“People know I’m not trying to build a reputation for the future. I’m only here for a year, so I can say whatever I want, and people can listen or not listen. Everybody’s sort of free of the pressure,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie’s career has been a long journey before arriving at Wayland this year. He started his first job teaching as an English teacher at Brookline High School. He then became a Housemaster of BHS. After working for three years to get his doctorate degree, Ritchie transitioned into a job as principal of Winchester High School, where he stayed for seven years. Finally, Ritchie spent thirteen years as the superintendent/principal of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. He then retired for a year.
The sudden change in administration has sparked curiosity among some members of the WHS community about what changes Richie plans on implementing and how he’ll make his mark here.
As it turns out, Ritchie hopes to leave the Wayland community as it is and not disturb the culture of the school.
“I think that it would be really irresponsible for me to make changes I think are valuable and then leave. I’m very sensitive to the fact that I’m only here for a year,” Ritchie said.
This isn’t Ritchie’s first time being an interim principal, though. Last year, before coming to Wayland, Ritchie was an interim principal for the Michael Driscoll School in Brookline. He explained his position there and believes Wayland will be similar.
“What happened at this elementary school and what I suspect will happen here is that you spend a lot of time right at the beginning of the year being confused because you don’t really know people, and you’re gradually getting into the rhythm of the place,” Ritchie said. “Then, you just fall more and more in love with the school, and suddenly it’s time to leave.”
Ritchie also explained the value of transition in an interim year.
“I don’t have any plans to change things here, but sometimes it’s valuable to have a new perspective. An interim year is a good year for people to stop and reflect,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie’s philosophy on education is to create an accepting environment where students feel comfortable trying new things and making mistakes. He hopes to achieve a balance between work and play in a high school community.
“High school is a time when students are old enough to be given responsibility. If they mess it up, we respond, but kids just grow more, learn more, are happier if they feel they are in an environment where people care about them and trust them,” Ritchie explained. “School can and should be a place where people work really hard, but also is fun and enjoyable, and you can laugh. There should be a balance. We’re here together, so let’s have fun and let’s work.”