As Supt. Emeritus Paul Dakin walks out the door of his office for the last time today, Dec. 23, he’ll be closing the door on the achievement of more than a few goals in the schools that many thought were unattainable when he took the reins 15 years ago.
Dakin will officially retire today from the Revere Public Schools and from his education career, having been the top education official in the City that oversaw the building of five new schools and the creating of the best urban school district in the state – something known within inside circles of the district as “BUDS.”
“It went by very quickly,” said Dakin, 64, this week. “I loved the job and it’s difficult to work 60 or 70 hours a week…I’ll be working part-time for the state Superintendent’s Association. The ideas are still hanging around my head. It gets difficult to put in those superintendent’s hours when you’re 64 years old and it’s harder every day to put in the energy required for the job.”
Dakin said he and his wife, MaryEllen, will remain living in their hometown of Revere and that he would volunteer with the schools if and when asked.
“I will be helping out as much as possible on a volunteer basis,” he said. “I’m off the payroll Dec. 23 and any work I do for the district or any advice or mentoring I give will not be in the form of remuneration. It will only be because I want to give back on a voluntary basis.”
As the superintendent of Revere schools, Dakin led the district to unthinkable heights in terms of academic achievements and new facilities. As he walks out of his office Dec. 23, he will have closed the book on the fifth, and final, new school (the Hill School, replacing McKinley School) in the district since the School Building Plan came out in the late 1990s. He also has led the schools from a chronic low performer on state standardized tests to being a Level 2 District and the top urban school district in the state – or “BUDS.”
Dakin grew up in Revere and has roots that go far back in the community. He didn’t attend Revere High School, but rather attended Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston with a mind towards becoming a computer engineer at Northeastern University. However, prior to heading down that path, Dakin took on a part-time teaching position at Bosco and also coached track – as running was and is a passion he has had since the age of 13.
That stint as a coach and a teacher changed his life.
“That whole part-time experience at Don Bosco coaching and teaching – I taught electrical and electronics – changed my path,” he said. “That made my change from going into computer programming at Northeastern to going to teaching college at Salem State. Being around kids and coaching track really opened a door into what I wanted to do.”
Dakin eventually landed at the former Savio Prep in East Boston, where he taught and coached at the school for more than 20 years. The last 12 years at the school he was an administrator.
Dakin said he eventually decided to come to Revere because of education reform money in 1993 from the state. He said Revere Public Schools had a long history of great leaders and teachers, but had always lacked the funding to take it where it wanted to go. With more dollars coming to the district, he said he saw an opportunity.
“Education reform and the money gave Revere what it needed to put the district on track,” he said. “The great people were in place, but the money allowed them to do what they had hoped to do for years…I thought education reform was an opportunity to bring ideas developed in the private school to the public schools. We were pulling many kids from Revere to Savio and the private schools at the time. I thought I could bring the ideas that parents were looking for to the public schools with education reform funding.”
Dakin said he came to Revere Public Schools as a Director of Math, a job that quickly became the Director of Math, Science and Technology. After three years, he became the assistant superintendent behind former Supt. Carol Tye. After five years there, he was chosen as the superintendent of schools.
He spent nearly 15 years at that post before becoming superintendent emeritus last June.
He said a great deal of the accomplishments that he helped usher in to Revere Schools came due to the solid foundation built ahead of him, but also due to a great collaboration during his tenure.
“Between my assistant superintendent, Ann Marie Costa, and the Revere Teacher’s Association under Susan Lanza, the vision I had couldn’t have been completed without those cooperative relationships,” he said. “I don’t think that can be overstated that it’s so important to have everyone having the same goal. It might not be obvious to a lot of people that we had a progressive union that wanted to make sure we achieved these goals.”
That goal, and the one thing that Dakin said he cherishes as an achievement, is making Revere the best urban school district in the state.
He said he first put it out to staff and teachers that they were striving for BUDS – or best urban school district in the state. Little by little, with incremental gains and innovative new programs, the district climbed the rankings and students began to perform at higher levels – also being accepted and going to better colleges.
Last year, when the district made Level 2 status across the board, the dream was realized.
“That was the goal we had in our head – the BUDS – and we did it,” he said. “It’s the fulfillment of a goal I had in my mind. We started it 15 years ago and we would laugh about it and some maybe never thought it was possible. When you have goals and build a team and have everyone working towards those goals – this is proof you can do it.” Meanwhile, he said the five-school building plan was also a big accomplishment in his career here, but part and parcel to the BUDS achievement.
“If I had to choose between the new buildings or the academic gains, I would have to choose the academics with old buildings,” he said. “Certainly, having the new buildings helped us achieve BUDS. Anyone who think different is thinking way off…Buildings were really just a part of achieving BUDS.”
And Dakin said though a change was necessary for him, he will miss reporting to his School Street office each and every day. “There is a similar feeling to when other people left and I missed them, except I’m leaving and have to get used to that,” he said. “It was hard when Isminy Roberto retired from my office, but to leave Carol, Ellie, Elise, Erica, Dianne Kelly and Chris Malone is really hard. It will be hard not to see those six people every day.”