By Steev Riccardo
“He is Bartlett High School, green and white, through and through, and you could see it; he loves this place, he loves this town, and working here for him has been an honor and a privilege.”
–Colleen Nasis, Bartlett High teacher
on Mike Hackenson
One can only imagine what it must be like working in education for 34 years. Bartlett High School Principal Michael Hackenson has done just that and now the time has come for the admired educator to retire, which he will do this Friday.
Following an “absolutely fantastic” 34-year career, Hackenson will move on to the next stage of his life and spend some valuable time with his family. He leaves Bartlett High School with “its pathway going in a really good direction.”
Hackenson, a graduate of Bartlett High School, received his undergraduate degree from Nichols College and went on to receive two master’s degrees from Worcester State College (now Worcester State University), in English and Administration.
He started his illustrious teaching career at neighboring Oxford High School in 1978 as an English teacher. He went on to become the executive director of Oxford’s successful Project COFFEE for two years in 1987 and 1988. Project COFFEE lets students learn an occupational skill or trade along with standard academic subjects.
In 1988 he was appointed the Assistant Principal at Oxford High School, a title that he kept for several years before accepting the principal’s position with the school in 1995-96.
“At that point, I had three children that were all going to Webster public schools and I was being pulled by both school districts for special events. It became a real struggle not wanting to miss my children’s events, but having to be at Oxford’s events,” said Hackenson.
The opportunity that he had waited for came in 1999-2000, when the principal’s job opened up at Bartlett and “it was a perfect position for me to be in.” He was offered and accepted the job at his alma mater.
When Hackenson took the job the town was struggling and having financial problems. The school itself was hit pretty hard as well, and had been placed on probation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
“One of my goals was to get us off of probation. We had an accreditation visit in 2003, after which we were placed on warning, which was a step up from probation, a step better.”
A year later Bartlett regained full accreditation “which was an accomplishment not just for me, but for the staff as well. They were focused and determined. They knew that this school was not meant for probation status. That was one of the highlights of my career.”
Hackenson was also intent on building a strong faculty that cared about the students and were willing to make relationships with them. He feels they have succeeded in that respect.
“We have some great teachers who are doing that right now. These are teachers who are in it for the kids and care for the kids. It’s a great feeling when you walk through this building. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing them grow, watching them graduate, a lot of kids come back and visit us and you know they are coming back because they have good memories.”
“I am also proud that we put a lot of kids into good colleges, competitive colleges like Brown University, Syracuse University, and Georgia Tech. The goal now is to get more kids into those kinds of schools. We have also increased the number of kids who are going to college; we have gone from 75 percent up to 90 percent.”
Hackenson credits this achievement to new academic programs. “We have a good group of professional teachers who created these programs, and they’ve really benefited the kids.”
“We have also worked to improve the MCAS scores. Over the years, we have dramatically reduced the number of kids not passing their tests. I think the next step now is to bring in a real quality advanced placement program.”
Hackenson also credits the schools Curriculum Director Andrew Kelly, who has been “very helpful in refueling the plane. I think I am leaving the school with its pathway going in a real good direction. It’s going to be ready for the next principal to come and bring it to another level.”
Colleen Nasis, who also grew up in Webster and also graduated from Bartlett High School like “Hack,” as she and others call him, has been working for the principal for ten years. Along with her teaching position, she has also been part of the school’s coaching staff and feels that Hackenson has been supportive on many levels.
“Coaching the teams for him has also been an honor and a privilege, He has taught the kids to always be proud of themselves and I think that is why he gets a staff that are proud of themselves as well. He is at the games, one of the loudest guys in the stands. He is going to be missed. Its hard to replace someone like him.”
Hackenson recently hosted the five potential candidates, one of whom will be his successor, and gave them a tour of the school, or should we say ‘his’ school.
“It’s really bittersweet; it’s two-fold, the family atmosphere, the faculty and the children. There are some great kids in this school, some who have had some rough times in their life and it’s great to see them moving forward.”
The kids will miss “Hack.” He was a genuine leader who will be not be forgotten.
- Wednesday, 01 February 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News