Typically reserved, and even a little shy, Farmington Public Schools Board of Education President Howard Wallach couldn’t hold back the tears Monday, as friends and colleagues recognized his 12 years of service during a reception held at the Maxfield Education Center in Farmington.
“These are really good people, and they’re really good people to work with,” he said, following a program of tributes and accolades. “I’ll miss them. I’ll miss the work.”
That work, former Superintendent Bob Maxfield pointed out, happened during some of the shrinking school district’s most “tumultuous” times. Wallach served as president during the closure of four elementary schools six years ago, and the more recent vote to close Harrison High School, re-purpose Dunckel Middle School as a K-8 STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) school, and reconfigure grades.
Wallach “provided this place with the stability needed to move forward,” Maxfield said, adding current board members should take their lead from him. Former board member Frank Reid, current board vice president Sheilah Clay, and State Rep. Christine Greig all mentioned Wallach’s integrity, attention to detail, wisdom, willingness to lend a listening ear, and dedication to doing what was best for kids and the community.
“I felt Howard’s spirit when I first joined the board, and that spirit has sustained me while I’ve been on the board with him,” Clay said, “He was always somebody I could call when I needed to think through decisions.”
Wallach praised Maxfield, former Superintendent Sue Zurvalec, and current Superintendent George Heitsch, along with the district’s teachers, “who get criticized way too much,” and former and current board members. He encouraged his colleagues to follow Heitsch’s lead, because “he knows what he’s doing. But challenge him every step of the way.”
After sitting by her husband’s side through the program, Stacy Wallach said the event was “rough, but exhilarating, as well,” and noted that many of those in attendance have become close friends.
“People who know him know why he did this for 12 years,” she said.
Wallach’s officials retirement date is June 30. His colleagues will on June 29 interview five candidates for the open position, and they are expected to appoint a replacement that evening.