Saying Goodbye to Mr. Dorey after 27 Years at AB
BY SOPHIE ZHANG '22
While passing through the hallway or finding a seat for lunch, you can usually catch a glimpse of ABRHS Principal Larry Dorey in his signature suspenders and scally cap. Mr. Dorey has been a welcoming presence for many at school, and his smile and love for the community will surely be missed after almost thirty years of service at AB.
In 1994, Mr. Dorey first entered AB as a counselor and coordinator for alternative high school programs. “When the position was opened, I applied for it, and it worked out to be a great match,” he said. “It kind of just happened. It wasn’t planned, and I just got lucky at the right time.” He loved working with young people and thought it would be a great fit.
Later, in 1999, Mr. Dorey became an Assistant Principal, a position he would hold for almost twenty years. He loved the role, as it allowed him to interact with a large population of students. He enjoyed bringing kids, families, and teachers together to work through problems and find solutions, giving him a chance to further bond with the community.
Finally, in 2017, Mr. Dorey became interim principal, but he never sought the spotlight. In fact, “I never applied to be a principal here,” he said. “The position opened up a couple of times, but I never had an interest in doing that.” However, then-principal Dr. JoAnn Campbell resigned in July 2017, and Mr. Dorey was appointed to fill her place as the next person in line. Even though Mr. Dorey had the experience and a great team of administrators behind him, “it took a lot of thought. I wasn’t quite sure if it was the right match for me.” Mr. Dorey had to learn how to use his voice publicly, something that didn’t come naturally to him as an introvert.
The principal position also came with increased responsibility, and Mr. Dorey wasn’t able to interact as personally with the students compared to before. Now, he had to oversee everything around the school. “If something goes wrong, it's on me… even though it may be someone else's responsibility,” he said. “A lot of the time is spent… making sure things are getting done and bills are getting paid.” Mr. Dorey also has to represent the high school at the district level—managing school committee expectations, attending meetings at the central office, and planning for the bigger picture.
Moreover, with the new role, Mr. Dorey further inherited a wave of grief from the suicides still fresh in everybody’s minds. Over a span of thirty months starting in 2016, six students within Acton-Boxborough’s school district took their own lives. “The most challenging thing for me has always been [the loss of a student],” Mr. Dorey said. “There's nothing that ever fills that, just knowing what has happened, the scale of it, and the damage done to families and the community… [It] has always impacted me profoundly over my years here.”
Mr. Dorey and the administration have thus spent a significant amount of time focusing on suicide and mental health. They have added more support and social-emotional learning and have worked with Challenge Success, a non-profit that provides information and strategies to create more balanced and academically fulfilled students. As part of the collaboration, ABRHS set a later start time, transitioned to a rotating schedule, and got rid of midyear and final exams. “We've started to take a look at some of the things that we need to do a better job at,” said Mr. Dorey, “and really reflect on that and not just say we're fine because we're one of the best academic schools.” When Challenge Success surveys were conducted, Mr. Dorey was pleased to see that the amount of homework has dropped— teachers began to more closely examine whether material was essential or not. He added that he has seen a bigger building-wide effort and responsibility to head in a mental-health-oriented direction: “It's really important that we make sure that everyone is being given the same opportunities and share in the same success.”
Mr. Dorey has faced many challenges over his four years as Principal, and it is these tumultuous events such as the suicides and the coronavirus pandemic where his leadership most shines. Mr. Dorey aims to compile the best team possible with the resources they need to address our school’s issues. He believes that everyone should have an equal responsibility in learning from each other and making decisions based on integrity, genuity, and consistency. Listening to faculty and students, Mr. Dorey enjoys taking different perspectives and pulling them together. By creating preventative measures, support systems, and swift decisions, Mr. Dorey aims to reach as many students as possible.
While reflecting on his time at the high school, Mr. Dorey remembers his time with students the most. You can often find our principal sitting in on classes, a favorite activity pulled over from his assistant principal days. Mr. Dorey loves a learning environment of collaboration where teachers and students work and build off each other. Every day, Mr. Dorey learns something new from a student, class, or colleague.
Similarly, Mr. Dorey enjoys seeing students feel good about themselves and their work, whether that be at Science Family Night, an athletic event, or a school play. In our interview, Mr. Dorey also recollected the times when he was able to help people who needed it the most. Students have come back before to thank Mr. Dorey and talk with him, and Mr. Dorey is always happy to know that they’re doing better.
Although he has achieved a high level of success in his work as Principal, Mr. Dorey retains a humble outlook. “My whole attitude is gratitude,” he said. “I'm very fortunate to have been here and have had friendships with teachers and relationships with students.” After he retires, he simply hopes that “kids can say that he helped [them] out, he was fair… that he had the best interest of kids and teachers at heart.”
When leaving us with some final words, Mr. Dorey reminded us that these are challenging times, but we can face them together. He understands that life moves quickly as we get caught up in our work but hopes that we can keep each other and our community in our hearts. “We need to be good to each other,” he said, “and try to reach out and help.”
To our incoming principal, Joanie Dean, Mr. Dorey advised that “you got some great people here, some great students, and you've got the resources that can really help you grow. Don't feel as though you need to come in knowing what to do and give yourself some time. It's going to take a few years to get to know people and understand people. There are certain things that you see and can bring right to the table, but there are other things that you want to listen in on and learn.”
After retiring, Mr. Dorey plans to spend more time with his family—his wife, daughters, and grandson, Calvin—and help out. “I’ve reached the age where one can retire,” he said, and “I’m fortunate I can do it now.” Mr. Dorey is also excited to explore the country. “I love the national parks and nature and the outdoors.” He especially wants to visit Arizona, Yellowstone (where he spent his honeymoon), Alaska, and northern California. We at The Spectrum wish Mr. Dorey all the best and are excited for his new adventures. Thank you for fostering such a wonderful, kind, and supportive school. HAGS—have a great summer.