By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld….
Howard Weiner, principal at Palmetto High for the past six years, will retire on July 31. He says it was not an easy decision to make and that he agonized about it for six months.
“I’m walking away from the best job I’ve ever had,” Weiner says. “It is the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had. It’s not easy walking away from that.”
But, with his family, he made the decision over the Memorial Day weekend. He says once he shared the decision, he felt wonderful. It was a family decision because his wife is also retiring.
“This is her 21st year and this is my 20th year,” Weiner says. “We decided we wanted to explore a new chapter in our lives.” Before going into education, Weiner was in business for 15 years. He began his education career in 1990 as a substitute teacher and became a full-time teacher in 1991.
“We are looking forward to spending quality family time together,” he says. “To read the books I’ve wanted to read for the last 10 years, to do projects around the house and go fishing.”
Weiner figures they will do that for six months to a year and then they will see what’s next.
“I look at life as an adventure,” he says. “I try to talk to kids about that. They are very confused about their futures. The beauty of life is that you walk the path. The unexpected interactions with people have an impact on the direction you travel.”
He’s also listening to his mother’s advice about not making plans.
“My mother used to say, men make plans and God laughs,” he says. “I’m not one to make those long-range plans.”
Looking back, Weiner says being named principal of Palmetto High School was one of the highlights of his career.
“This was the best job I’ve ever had,” he says. “Having the opportunity to work for the school system in this community and to walk into the school — an established school, having a culture of high performance — brought out the best in me.”
Weiner also cherishes the connections he’s made in the community, including community leaders, the PTA and all the Palmetto High School parents.
“Working with the parents, who are high demanding, but as high demanding as I was, that brought me such a sense of accomplishment, because all those interactions were positive. The second highlight was Principal of the Year. That was an incredible experience for me. Kind of like winning an Academy Award.”
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner served on the Principal of the Year selection committee two years ago.
“I had the opportunity to closely scrutinize how he has led the school as principal,” Lerner says. “He has been able to tap into the strengths of students, parents and teachers to get the best out of them. He has been at the helm of our five-school team of principals, PTSA representatives and the community, and built a strong vision of excellence in education for our community, resulting in an impressive educational compact between the school district and the Village.”
Weiner says that while he will miss the Palmetto community, he won’t miss getting up at 4:30 every morning and driving 300 miles a week.
“I see myself staying active and engaged in education in some capacity,” he says. “This is my life’s work. This is the juice that keeps me going. I see myself probably getting back into the game in some capacity in a year or so. The opportunities that present themselves will be a variable; they will be there or not be there. The issue is that if I do something, it will not be because of a need for money, but because there is a hole I have to fill.”
Weiner says he is looking at the next phase of his life as an adventure. “That’s what’s so exciting about it,” he says. “I’m so excited about my life that begins July 31.”
As far as who will replace him, Weiner says he doesn’t know who that will be or when the next principal will be named. He hopes that he will have the opportunity to work in transition with his successor.