After nearly two decades at Hillcrest High School, Principal Stephen Duch has retired.
Duch, who retired earlier this month, is often credited for changing Hillcrest High School’s bad reputation for violence. During his tenure, he transformed the school’s shaky past and even earned Hillcrest a National Blue Ribbon– an award given to high schools that have made significant improvements.
In addition to making Hillcrest one of the safest large public schools in the City, he also transformed the school academically. For the past couple of years, Hillcrest has earned all A’s and B’s on the New York City Progress Report. The school’s graduation rates and college readiness exceed public school averages. Last year, Hillcrest students earned five million dollars in scholarships. The school has also shown great progress on Regents exams.
Before he came to Hillcrest High School in 1997, Duch was a kindergarten teacher. His work as a teacher distinguished him in the field of education to the point where he was eventually offered an assistant principal position at Hillcrest. Shortly thereafter, Duch was promoted to principal and has been serving in that capacity before many of his current students were even born.
Duch is very proud of his accomplishments and said that he thoroughly enjoyed working at Hillcrest High School for the past 18 years.
“It’s like I’m the mayor, but being the principal also comes with a lot of responsibilities and there is no space for mistakes,” he said.
In addition to changing the school’s reputation, the faculty often credit Duch for improving communication. It is said that Duch has never made any decisions without carefully weighing the options of staff first.
Duch has now been in education for 37 years and has no plans to stop. Though he is not entirely too sure of his plans after retirement, Duch remains committed to the field and said he to hopes to help train inexperienced principals or work at a college.
Duch admits that his departure is a bittersweet moment in his life. Though he loved his job, he knows that he can leave the school with a “clear conscience” – knowing he did everything he could for the betterment of the school. And many seem to agree.
“The impact you have made and the path you have paved will continue to inspire and lead us forward as we continue the work you have so graciously led,” said Norma Feriz-Gordon, a teacher at the school. “Your footprint remains. The family environment is so apparent as students graduate only to return to become an integral and daily part of the Hillcrest family.”
“In today’s Dept. of Education, a typical ‘shelf life’ for a principal is around five years. Mr. Duch has exceeded that four times. This alone is a testament to fact that unlike so many others, he did something right,” said Russel Wasden, a staffer at Hillcret. “Hundreds of teachers and fellow administrators have benefited from the right choices made by this principal — not to mention the tens of thousands of students, parents, and families who have benefited as well.”
As Duch’s retirement is the end of an era, Hillcrest has already begun a new chapter in its book with David Morrison as its new principal.