Clarke, longtime AP, retiring after 26 years


Gillian Brown

Veteran educator Michael Clarke has served as associate principal, assistant principal and business teacher at DHS. Currently he serves as Level 1 principal. He is retiring at the end of the school year.

Gillian Brown, Staff Writer

After 26 years in secondary education, Level 1 assistant principal Michael Clarke has decided to retire.

Clarke worked as an associate principal in the main office for four years as well as a business teacher for nine years. Throughout his time at DHS, Clarke has made many friendships and lasting relationships.

“I’ll miss my friends and I’ve made a lot of good friends here,” Clarke said. “And they’re not all teachers. They’re not all administrators. Some of them are young people, who I’ve come to learn later on, were actually my students years ago.”

Senior Aryanna Dasilva has known Clarke since her freshman year and enjoys working with him.

“Mr. Clarke is a great assistant principal and well rounded person to talk to,” Dasilva said. “Honestly I’m gonna miss so much about Mr. Clark, especially being able to talk to him about anything and knowing that he won’t tell anyone.”

Clarke is also well-liked among faculty and administrators, so his retirement is bittersweet. Principal Dan Donovan said, “I immediately enjoyed his sense of humor, how much fun he made the workplace, and his laid-back attitude of ‘We’ll get through anything.’”

Sheila Williams, the Level 1 secretary of 15 years, also expressed deep regard for Clarke. “Mr. Clarke is a wonderful person and I can’t imagine him leaving,” she said. “He’s my boss first, but he’s also my best friend. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

The sentiments will not go unreciprocated. Clarke will miss many things about DHS from the students to the faculty to the excitement.

“I’ll miss the kids, their energy. The fun stuff, sometimes the silly stuff, sometimes the not so silly stuff. I’ll miss all of that,” Clarke said. “It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think you take the whole package together.”

He’s proud of the work done at DHS and is confident in the staff’s ability to adapt to new challenges with ease and grace.

“The staff strives to make sure students are successful, but also they care about the person,” Clarke said. “This is a very talented and smart group of administrators that are going to continue to lead Danbury in the 21st century.”

English and journalism teacher Thomas Ross recalls that Clarke was his first administrator that he reported to when hired 15 years ago.

“He immediately made it clear to me, and the other first-year teachers on his floor, that he was there for us. And for 15 years he has always been there for me,” Ross said. “Teachers here respect Mike because he still teaches, he still knows what it’s like, and when he comes into our rooms to evaluate us he looks at things through the lens of not only an administrator but also as a teacher. That means a lot.”

Clarke will also miss the atmosphere of Danbury High, with all its thriving youth.

“Everyday you’re surrounded by young people and that keeps you young. I firmly believe that,” Clarke said.  

The students remain one of the most rewarding aspects of the job to Clarke.

“To see our students grow, struggle, pick them up and brush them off, send them on their way, then they do better the next time. That gives not just me, but I think most people that are in education, the true joy that we look forward to when we started in this adventure,” he said. “I think that if we’re in it for the right reasons, you want to see young people survive and strive and be successful. There’s an intrinsic value you just can’t measure.”

Clarke won’t just be missed for his kind character, but also for his skillful work and clever mind.

“He has a knack for looking at things at a different angle,” Donovan said. “I love bouncing ideas off of him because he’ll say, ‘Hey, what about this?’ He’s got so much experience and the way he looks at a problem is really going be missed.”

John  La Rosa, the science department head, has been named the new assistant principal for Level 1. As for advice for La Rosa, Clarke urges him to: “Be yourself. Do your own thing. What worked for me will not work for someone else, nor should.”

As the school year comes to a close, Clarke’s retirement nears. It will be a big change for Clarke, but a good one in his eyes.

“I think it’s time and I’m very comfortable with my decision,” Clarke said. “It hasn’t really sunk in and I don’t think it’ll really sink in until when I usually come back in August to start work. I think that’s really when it’ll start sinking in.”

As for retirement plans, Clarke hopes to “improve his golf game” with Kevin Wilcox, special services facilitator, and work on his house in Cape Cod, where he said he’ll possibly retire with his fiancé. He will also continue to teach business courses at Naugatuck Valley Community College, which he’s been doing for 10 years. Clarke also mentioned numerous times looking forward to not waking up at 5:30 in the morning.

“Retirement does not mean you stop,” Clarke said. “Retirement means, in my case, you just try to do something different.”

Ultimately, Clarke looks forward to this new stage of life, while still looking back at his time at DHS with appreciation.

“There have been so many people wishing me well,” Clarke added. “It’s a good group of people we’ve got here.”