Kenneth Kaplan walks down the hallway at Randall Carter Elementary School greeting his students with a smile. He jokes with them. They exchange high-fives.
"This is the first district where I felt I belonged and had strong relationships with the administrators and families here," Kaplan said. "In my old districts, I was isolated to just the schools. Here in Wayne, the schools are really part of the community. It's a heart-warming feeling."
Kaplan will retire from the position he's held for nine years in August. The Board of Education approved the retirement at a meeting on Thursday.
Kaplan said that Randall Carter has "exceeded his expectations."
"This school is more like a family than a school," Kaplan said.
Kaplan said that the time for leaving the education system "just feels right," especially with the new teacher evaluation and observation system being implemented.
"Rather than retool my staff to a new way of doing things and then retooling things again after I leave, I felt it was right to have the district and the principal to go implement all of that at the same time," Kaplan said.
Kaplan said he has "some real emotional feelings about leaving." He said he's thinking about going into public relations or selling time-share condominiums.
"It's been a really wonderful experience for me here," Kaplan said. "I've watched young teachers grow into masterful teachers and bring the kind of educational leadership to the school system."
Board of Education trustees spoke fondly of Kaplan on Thursday.
"I love Mr. Kaplan. He's everything you want in a principal. I'm going to be sad to see him go," said Kim Essen, whose two kids had Kaplan as their principal.
Essen said Kaplan brought stability to the school. There was a principal and interim principal leading the school for a few years before Kaplan arrived.
"When he came, everything changed. Everything that happened before he got there stopped and everyone figured it all out again," Essen said. "He just made it just a fun, nice place to go."