Thanks, Mr. Quimby….
The principal of a small school has to wear many hats. In addition to being in charge of the building and the safety of the students, the principal also coordinates the work of the faculty, establishes a schedule of classes, helps in the hiring of new teachers, administers discipline, coordinates all expenditures, acts as athletic director, and performs hundreds of other tasks. And when an after school activity or sporting event takes place, the principal is there to supervise.
Randell Quimby became Darlington’s principal in the fall of 1963 when I started my sophomore year. On the first day, we assembled in the gym, teachers passed out student handbooks, and Mr. Quimby explained the new written rules to a somewhat surprised student body. Handbook? Rules? Guidelines for behavior? This did not sound like it was going to be a “fun year” at school! Mr. Quimby had high expectations for everyone, and he let us know that errant behavior was not going to be tolerated.
Back in those days, 99 per cent of the parents backed the principal in his decisions. Discipline problems were rare, but there were always a few students who had to learn the hard way…as they headed up to the office for a paddling. I got along very well with Mr. Quimby. I did not agree with all of the his rules, but at that age, I thought I knew everything…like every other teenager…right? However, during my senior year, as student body president, I got drafted into presenting a petition to him…signed by almost every student, which questioned his rule about a high school student inviting a junior high student to a high school dance. Suffice it to say, this did not go over very well at all, and I was taken to his office, where he informed me that such petitions would not be tolerated. The next day, Mr. Quimby found out that I had nothing to do with starting the petition, and that the students only had me read it to him as their representative…so I was out of hot water! I graduated in the spring of 1966, got married that fall, and began my studies at Purdue. And just a few years later, Supt. Eual McCauley hired me to teach and coach at good ol’ Darlington school!
Mr. Quimby was still the principal, and he was the one in charge. I discovered that it was GOOD to have rules and expectations of behavior for students. Without rules and discipline, there is no education. I also found out that Mr. Quimby had hundreds of other duties that I had never imagined before. A principal cannot let the students run the school. He cannot let the parents run the school. He cannot let the teachers run the school. Yes, he must listen to others, but the principal is ultimately responsible and must make the final decisions. Mr. Quimby was not all business. He did have sense of humor, and enjoyed a good joke or funny story just like everyone else. As a member of the PTO, he also helped raise money for new equipment. He participated in skits at pep sessions to encourage support for the athletic teams, and he helped supervise hundreds of extracurricular activities.
Mr. Quimby served 22 years as principal at Darlington, and after retirement he continued to serve his church and the community in many ways. When I was elected Sheriff in 1994, Mr. Quimby’s formula for administration held true. The Sheriff is the one responsible for law enforcement in the county. He must make the final decisions…sometimes life or death decisions. The Sheriff cannot let the deputies, politicians, or the public run the department.
In 2016 I invited Mr. Quimby to my 50th high school class reunion. He had suffered a stroke and had some other health issues, but he showed up to see everyone, and he received a large applause as I introduced him as the longest serving principal in Darlington history. I told everyone that I was surprised that me did not go crazy during all of those years. Mr. Quimby laughed, and he agreed it was pretty nerve wrenching at times!
School principals work long hours. Administrator, ambassador, diplomat, master statesman…the headaches are many…the rewards are few. Sadly, Randell Quimby passed away in the fall of 2018. And one last thing. Even after he had retired, I could never get used to calling him “Randy” during all of those years. I always called him “Mr. Quimby.” Thank you, Mr. Quimby…the principal.
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.