School’s First and Only Principal, Stuart Byrne, Says Goodbye
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Maple Avenue Middle School Principal Stuart Byrne will retire at the end of December, 22 years after taking over the position and just over 40 years after beginning his career as an educator.
Byrne is the first and only principal in Maple Avenue Middle School’s history. The school opened in 1992 and has undergone many changes, but the one constant has been Byrne.
“I was hired at the end of 1991 and started in February of 1992,” said Byrne. “At that time, the building was a shell. Myself and a secretary were all that started, originally. Everything was done from the ground up. I look back now and I think, ‘Did I do all that?’ But I did…I did.”
Not only is Byrne retiring after 22 years at Maple Avenue, he’s retiring from 42 years in education.
“I never left…I started in Kindergarten and just never left,” laughs Byrne.
Byrne said he’s had the good fortune to keep his career alive by teaching different subject matters, grade levels and eventually transitioning into an administrative role. He said his lengthy career has as many peaks as the Rocky Mountains, but some events that stand out include the grand opening of Maple Avenue in 1992 and the 2002 expansion of Maple Avenue with the addition of eighth grade.
“Middle schoolers, as much as the times have changed and the demands have changed, they themselves haven’t changed a lot,” said Byrne. “I think what has changed is the world they’re coming into and the stresses and the pressures being put on them at a younger age. I think one of the challenges middle school teachers and educators have is the fact that we’re trying to make sure they’re competent in literacy and math, but it’s very important that they be critical thinkers. That’s something I find exciting. These kids have the excitement of a kindergartener, but young adult skills so you can take many of them up to higher levels of learning.”
Local, national and worldly events undoubtedly have an impact on the classroom. Byrne said two events stand out in his memory – 9/11 and the 1993 abduction and murder of Sara Anne Wood of Herkimer County, NY. Serial killer Lewis Lent Jr. admitted to killing Wood in 1996, but her body was never found. To this day, Byrne has Wood’s photo posted on the bulletin board in his office.
“Wood was abducted around the time we were opening Maple Avenue and my wife worked with her aunt,” said Byrne. “There hasn’t been any closure for the family, there hasn’t been a memorial service, and there hasn’t been a funeral. I always promised myself that I would keep the photo up until the family got closure, but the photo is coming down when I leave. It’s been up there this whole time, it’s a little faded now. I’m hoping in the back of my mind that between now and my last day, there will be a news story saying they found her or can identify her.”
Byrne says he doesn’t have any set plans for his retirement at the moment, other than relaxing and spending time with his wife, Linda, his son, Nicholas, and his daughter, Lily. The three people he says provided him unconditional love and support throughout his career.
“For the first time in my life, I don’t have the next 10 years of my life planned out,” said Byrne. “It’s a major change. I have a stack of books I’ve accumulated that are non-educational that I might actually get to break a cover on because it hasn’t happened yet.”
Jeffrey D. Palmer, principal at Gordon Creek Elementary School in Ballston Spa, will serve as the next principal of Maple Avenue Middle School effective Thursday, Jan. 1.