Vosburgh set to retire as Patton principal

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After nearly two decades leading the middle school, ready to move on to new challenges

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

Bruce Vosburgh

EAST MARLBOROUGH — In the 40 years since it opened in 1972, Charles Patton Middle School has had just two principals: Patton, who led the school now named after him until 1992, and current principal Bruce Vosburgh.

But that’s going to change in the fall of 2012 with this week’s announcement that Vosburgh, who has been at the school since 1976, has decided to retire. Although still happy and challenged at Patton, Vosburgh began to get a sense that it might be time.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Sanville formally announced Vosburgh’s retirement Monday night, noting that on behalf of the district, “we are very happy for Mr. Vosburgh” and that there would be a more formal opportunity to recognize his contributions to the school district.

With the retirement of his brother, a teacher in the West Chester Area School District, after 40 years (“he’s busier than ever, now” Vosburgh said), the long-time district administrator decided it would be better to go a bit too early rather than stick around a bit too long. His youngest child, son Colton, a former multi-sport star at Unionville High School, has graduated from Penn State and is now out of the house. Older daughter Erin, followed her father’s footsteps, serving as an assistant lacrosse coach.

In short, it was time, he said.

“I’ve put in a lot of years,” he said. “And you don’t want to stay that extra year and find out you should have retired.”

And it’s not like Vosburgh won’t still be busy — and involved in middle school education. He’s slated to become Pennsylvania State Director of Schools to Watch, an organization that recognizes excellence over a broad set of criteria for middle schools.

Beyond that, the Pocopson resident said he expects to have a bit more time for outdoor work and allows with a smile that his wife Terry hopes to travel more. “We’ll see,” he grins, the smile of a man who seems very happy to spend as much time as possible in and around Unionville.

Although he’s enthusiastic about life once he moves on from Patton, he knows there’s a great deal he’ll miss, from colleagues of many decades, the parents, the students and the various sports he’s coached — both for the middle school, the high school and as part of the Unionville Recreation Association.

He’ll miss the daily impact of his work, too, he allows.

“You get letters from kids who turned their lives around, you have to feel good about that,” he said. He notes that he advises teachers — especially when they have a difficult  phone call to make to a parent — to take a bit of time before and after looking at positive letters or notes, or even call other parents with positive news to kind of keep things in perspective.

Clearly, too, he’s proud of the staff and building he’ll be passing onto his successor — to be determined through a formal search process this spring — numerous times during a conversation the words “this is a great school” end up coming out when he talks about various aspects of the people and program at the building. Even questions about the building itself, a bit overcrowded and architectually-challenged by some suggestions — and the district building that has gone the longest without renovations, the last expansions were done in the 1990s — he turns aside.

“The building is in great shape for it’s age,” he said. “I can’t say enough about our maintenance staff and the work they do.”

He allows that the building can be a bit tight and lacks windows in some parts — but that he was able to solve his biggest issue not long after taking over in the 1990s: the green walls.

“That was a real 1970’s thing,” he laughs. “Everything was green. We changed it.”

He does have some advice to whomever follows him: come in, learn the building, learn the people and listen, but don’t hesitate to do things their way, put their own mark on Patton.

“They’re going to need somebody who is going to be able to collaborate with people,” he said. “And I think you need to be able to come in and get the culture.”

And while he’ll be keeping tabs on how things progress at Patton, he’s excited about the coming changes in his life — and keeping busy.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to be, but I’m just going to make it happen.”

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