Thank you, Pat Watson.
For those who don’t know the superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, bear with me while I describe the man I have come to know over the past few years. In three short years — half of which were dominated by a pandemic — Pat changed Bloomfield Hills Schools forever.
I could list all of the improvements made possible by the trust he inspires —the bond, the fact that our district was in a very small minority of districts that saw academic growth post-pandemic, the transparency with which you run the district — but those do not capture the character and integrity of his leadership.
In the early days of the pandemic, the work was intense. The hours were grueling and the weight of the responsibility of the decisions we had to make was heavy. I saw parents, teachers, administrators and boards crumble. I asked Pat if he was doing alright and his response was that he knew how to handle adversity.
By the middle of the pandemic, Bloomfield Hills High School had become the go-to resource for other counties, states and even countries. Pat was never proprietary with the knowledge he acquired. He told me that this was not a competition — because when a child learns, we all win.
Pat reads everything. He understood that a single solution was nver going to work for everyone, so at the center of his plan were flexibility and options. Our high school students were able to choose, class by class, whether to attend virtually or in person (thank you to each and every BHS teacher). Months later, my two college students’ classes used the same model.
Students. They are the reason for everything he does. When I met Pat, I was amazed that he knew every one of the almost 2,000 students at his high school. After working with him, I am even more amazed at the way he is able to connect with every student he meets. I won’t profess to know how, but I suspect a big part of it is that he listens.
One of my favorite stories is of a student who accidentally emailed the wrong Watson — and asked the superintendent for help with his math homework. Pat can do almost everything, but (according to Pat) he cannot do math. So he was texting teachers to make sure he gave the right advice. To me, that exemplifies our superintendent.
Pat listens to everyone. He is very careful with his words and even more careful with his decisions. Even when he disagrees — and contrary to what many think, Pat and I did not agree on everything — he is always kind and respectful. Pat told me once that he would never bring someone down to build another up.
I sat next to Pat during board meetings; he is an avid note taker, who always follows up. He is very difficult to rattle. I have seen Pat lose his composure only a handful of times, and each involved listening to a student who was suffering. One public comment I will never forget was delivered by a student who had been bullied. Pat was shaking.
Pat Watson has never been unprepared for a meeting, and never failed, not once, to do his “homework.” If you want to watch (or have your kids watch) how to give a perfect job interview, watch his final interview video in the district archives. He had an ambitious 90-day plan and, despite a pandemic, we kept every one of his promises.
With grace and composure that I lack, he calmly answers questions about material provided to the board in advance. If he raised his voice, it was rare, and it was never to defend himself, but rather, to defend others. For those that suspect “behind the scenes'' nefarious control, I can promise you, there was none.
Pat is honest, transparent and collaborative. He never complains, blames or deflects. He is responsible for promoting real dialogue and difficult conversations that are the first step toward healing. Pat lets his hard work and outstanding results speak for themselves and is humble beyond compare.
Thank you, Pat. You are leaving Bloomfield Hills Schools a much better place than you found us. I am excited to see what you’ll do next.