Brian Sullivan: Jacoby's run at Herberg is finishing
PITTSFIELD -- Are they the First Family of city education? The resume certainly makes a case for such bold conjecture.
"There's been a Jacoby involved in Pittsfield education for a combined 118 years -- the past 79 years consecutive. I'm proud of that."
So said Chris Jacoby, the retiring Herberg Middle School principal, who will oversee his final graduation at the school a week from Friday. Jacoby has been the leader at Herberg for 13 years. That lengthy stint followed five years as vice principal at the school and two campaigns there as a social studies teacher.
His late father, Matt, brother Matt Jr., and mother Ruth -- she of a relatively healthy 100 years of age -- all contributed to those 118 years of city service in our pubic schools. And not that the family resume needs to be padded, but you can add Chris' brother, Phil, who for 39 years has been on staff at American University in Washington, D.C.
It's all very lengthy and equally laudable, "It's in our blood, I think," said Jacoby, who hopes to remain active in education, perhaps in the private sector.
But let's be honest here. Jacoby and education weren't strolling hand-in-hand at the onset. The 1971 Taconic High graduate, who earned his degree at Middlebury College, taught locally for a bit until he woke up one morning with the idea that it might be a good idea to set out and try his luck in the business world.
"I spent five years in banking," Jacoby said. "You know, commercial lending, stuff like that. I wanted to try something different, so I went to Boston."
But the juices didn't flow in that field like they did in education, and Jacoby yearned for both his native city and the career he left behind. He returned and found his way back into public schools, first as a teacher and coach, and then an administrator.
Teaching and being vice principal or principal can be different animals, Jacoby said.
"As a teacher or coach you're directing and helping the kids," he said. "As principal I'm directing and helping teachers."
Same idea, Jacoby implied. Just a different age group.
Few in education would argue that success within the middle school walls doesn't come easy. The age group involved mandates a certain strategy unlike any other. The young students are stretching their minds and bodies as they reach for a level of maturity and consistency. It can be a bumpy ride for the children and the staff.
"I tell new teachers to this level that they will need patience, a sense of humor and that they will need to treat students respectfully," Jacoby said. "These kids can size you up pretty quickly. It doesn't hurt if you can laugh at yourself a little. You know, let your guard down. You are going to need them to respect you,"
Jacoby has earned that respect at every level. It's been a good run for a good guy. The support from staff and office workers at the school, Jacoby said, has been enormous and allowed him the chance to perform his own designated job duties. His collective thanks for all those who have served with him was profuse.
So, is wife, Paula, daughter, Taylor, and son, Ryan, on board with this retirement thing?
Jacoby couldn't stifle the laughter. "They better be," he said,
Job well done, Chris. Job well done.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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