In our professional lives, there comes a time when you recognize and embrace that it is time for change. You suppress emotional attachments, perhaps toss aside your ego and surrender to the wisdom of your inner voice.
That inner voice surfaced for me about a year ago when I informed the Trustees of The Rowland Foundation that this would be my last year as the Executive Director of the Foundation I conceived back in 2008. I remember that day quite well. After 28 years, I was in my final month of being a school principal. I was uncertain as to what I might do next or what lay ahead. I had been reflecting on my career and the school I had come to love, and then sitting in my office one May morning, it came to me! I reminded myself that many great ideas had come out of that very office, often because a teacher simply walked in. Yet the challenge was always the same…where will the teacher find the time and the resources to pursue the initiative? Over the next several weeks, I thought about the issue and as the idea took shape, I approached Barry and Wendy Rowland to fund a foundation that supported visionary Vermont teachers who, in partnership with their principals, wanted to dream big. The Rowlands jumped at the idea and three weeks later in July 2008 The Rowland Foundation was born!
Never could I have imagined back then that The Rowland Foundation would have such a profound impact on Vermont schools… that we would have 90 Fellows, many now in leadership positions changing the educational landscape in our state… that we would have provided nearly $7M in grants to 40 deserving schools… or that we would proudly host one of Vermont’s most widely attended annual conferences anchored with internationally known keynote speakers. Hopefully that will be the case again this fall! Nor could I have anticipated that the past 13 years would become the professional highlight of my more than 40 years in education, first as a teacher and later as a school principal. In each of these positions, I knew when it was time to move on to a new challenge. That moment has come again. As George Harrison once said, “All Things Must Pass.”
After serving in any leadership position, it is human nature to wonder who will carry the legacy forward, be true to the organization’s mission or, in this case, serve as the steward of the generous philanthropy of the late Barry and Wendy Rowland. I am pleased that the Board of Trustees has unanimously approved Michael Martin as the next Executive Director of the Rowland Foundation, effective July 1, 2021. I could not be more thrilled by this appointment. Mike is a dear friend and a well known and highly regarded voice in Vermont education.
Mike has a clear vision, capable hands, and a big heart. Back in 2009, he was a member of our very first cohort when he was a teacher at Champlain Valley Union High School. As one of our two Senior Rowland Associates, Mike has worked closely with me over the past decade guiding our Fellows, planning retreats and our annual conference and facilitating long range planning efforts. With his doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies and his work as a curriculum director in Montpelier and South Burlington, Mike also brings scholarship and experience to this new role. Mike is a strong writer, seasoned presenter, and early adopter of innovation—all skills that will serve him well as our next Executive Director. He is ideally well suited to guide The Rowland Foundation into the future. And there is still plenty of work to be done!
In closing I want to acknowledge and thank our Rowland Fellows for their visionary work, their passion and their commitment to make our schools better. They are dear friends, and there are no words to describe how much I will miss them.