Longtime educator, principal in NK heading for retirement
Howard Ormond says he was just passing through the area on the way from North Carolina to check out job possibilities in Baltimore when some college buddies he stopped to visit in Richmond put him on to a teaching and coaching position in nearby New Kent County. He never made it to Baltimore.
Ormond accepted the New Kent job — teaching physical education and coaching at G.W. Watkins High School. The year was 1965.
Forty-four years later, Ormond’s long career in New Kent public education is winding down. At the close of the school year, he is retiring as principal at New Kent Middle School.
“I didn’t plan to stay,” he said, looking back on his career during an interview last week.
After graduating from Winston-Salem State University where he shared the basketball court with NBA great Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, he spent a year a Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. While there, he coached soon to be UNC All-American Charlie Scott.
After that year, he headed north and stopped over in Richmond, expecting to join his older sister in Baltimore where a number of job opportunities waited.
“It was a Sunday, and I called W.L. Taylor, the principal at Watkins,” Ormond said. “I met with him and stayed over on Monday to meet with the superintendent, Byrd Long. He took Mr. Taylor’s word and gave me the job on the spot.”
Moving from a private school with top-notch athletic facilities to Watkins where a gym didn’t exist took some getting used to, Ormond said. Watkins had a state champion baseball program, but no facilities for basketball.
“I convinced Mr. Taylor to put in blacktop for basketball where trailers are now,” he said. “After school, we would go to the Ruthville gym in Charles City.”
In those days, schools in New Kent and Charles City were combined under a single central administration.
Ormond eventually moved up to assistant athletics director and assistant principal. In 1979, he was elevated to middle school principal, a post he has held ever since. Although other opportunities arose over the years, he elected to remain in New Kent.
“I got challenged,” he said in response to why he chose not to go elsewhere.
“The parents challenged me to be a good person to work with kids, and Mr. Taylor challenged me saying the kids needed someone to look up to and who could be a good role model,” he said.
“I was committed to the kids of New Kent and the families here,” he added. “I kept in front of me that they need the best, too, so I’ve always tried to give it my best.”
The staff and leadership in the school system also became a reason for staying on.
“The staff here has always been dedicated and loyal,” he said. “None of us are perfect, but we helped each other, supported each other, and trusted each other.”
And what has been the most satisfying aspect of his long tenure in New Kent?
“Being a people person,” he said with a laugh. “Interaction with students and teachers is always a plus, especially when you help a student become a better student or a teacher become a better teacher.”
As for the most challenging aspect, he said, “Helping parents understand middle school kids’ characteristics. These kids are only in middle school for three years max. If parents would have more faith in what we say when we find a problem and help us address the problem, we’d be more successful.
“And teachers who don’t feel good about themselves can’t be effective middle school teachers,” he said, sticking to the challenges topic. “These kids have a Ph.D. in getting on our nerves.”
What he’ll miss most when he walks away at the end of June are the people he has encountered along the way.
“I’ll miss having the responsibility of leading a group of dedicated educators to be better at their jobs and helping students understand it’s time for them to do the best they can,” he said.
“I’ll also miss the fact I won’t have my ROAR program,” he added, pointing to a student program he began in 1998 that fosters Respect, Order, Attitude, and Responsibility.
“And I’ll miss the people I’ve connected with and who have been with me a while,” he said. “You’ll always miss those people.”
But Ormond doesn’t plan to sit idly by during retirement. He is founder and president of HEO Climate Consultant Firm, a business that offers services in human relations through training and motivational speeches. He travels about the state and country offering upwards of 25 programs on topics mostly associated with the middle school environment.
And he also serves as a site base manager for the National Middle School Association, working with schools on an assortment of issues.
“Now I’ll be able to do those things much more freely,” he said. Being a middle school principal limited him to a handful of presentations each year. That number should now rise to 15-20.
Students and staff at New Kent Middle, meanwhile, will miss hearing Ormond utter a phrase that has almost become a personal trademark — “Have a super fantastic day.”
“That’s important,” he said. “It may be one small thing, but it’s the attitude you present to people. I’m telling them that while you’re here, we really appreciate you so have a super fantastic day.”
Students and staff most likely will unite in wishing their principal a super fantastic retirement.