Ayer High School’s Don Parker sits in his office, ready for the new school year.
AYER — Don Parker is beginning his 26th year at the helm of Ayer High School.
After deciding at age 11 that he wanted to be a history teacher, Parker graduated from Worcester and Framingham state colleges with degrees in history. He then began his career at Ayer High School.
In 1973, he filled in as an interim assistant principal, and in 1981 he became the head of the school that would become his home.
“Schools are amazing places to be,” he said. “Everyday is different and I look forward to each day and each year here at Ayer High.”
There are a few physical changes one will notice on opening day at the end of August. Besides the annual cleaning, there has been some restructuring and moving of classrooms over the summer.
“We are still in the midst of the changes, but (they’re) coming along nicely,” said Parker.
Just past the baseball field behind the school you’ll find new softball fields created due to the support of the athletic boosters.
“We hope to soon be able to have the entire softball program at the school and to not have to utilize the Pirone Park fields.”
Although he did find time to travel with his family and put in some time at his gym, Parker also participated in a training on Cape Cod titled Breaking Ranks.
“It really was about what’s the best way to run a high school,” he said. “We worked on redefining the senior year experience, continually improving instruction and the common practices that occur at the best high schools around the country.”
He hopes to introduce some of the material he worked on during at upcoming staff meetings.
When asked what his plans were for the year, Parker couldn’t wait to get started.
“It’s going to be a busy year, and we have a lot of plans,” Parker said.
A huge task for the year, he said, will be the transition planning for next year’s combining of the middle school and the high school.
“We are very excited about the move. We will be able to combine and better utilize staff and create curriculum opportunities for advanced eighth-graders by having them participate in high school classes,” he said.
Committees will look at school and busing schedules, examine other model schools that have gone through this transformation, and find the best ways to bring two faculties together under Parker’s leadership.
Some other tasks this school year include creating subcommittees to start working on the accreditation process the high school will soon be undergoing, continuing to revamp the advisor/advisee program, and with the help of expert Stan Davis, instituting a systemic anti-bullying program for the district. The Ayer Education Foundation is also funding a renaissance program that will acknowledge the successes of students in the school. “This is so important,” Parker said. “We need to show our students that we are proud of all of their accomplishments.”
Parker also noted that Kit Norris, a math consultant, would continue to work with the teachers to improve the quality of math instruction. Two other programs that Parker is proud of are the senior project program and a United Way initiative. The senior project program that began last year took off with flying colors. The number of seniors who applied for this opportunity rose from 15 last year to 57 for this year.
“This program will again start in January and will involve experience placements for qualifying students,” Parker said. Student’s attendance, discipline, and academic achievements are looked at during the application process. The United Way initiative will bring mentors into the school to establish clubs that will turn into money-making businesses. “The money made from these businesses will be donated to charity,” Parker informed.
When asked how he gets mentally ready year after year, Parker said, “I am recharged and ready to go. This year will bring new teachers, new students and new parents. I am always excited about the change in dynamics and how each person will uniquely impact the school year.”
Parker considers himself lucky to be in the AHS community.
“I’ve got the best job going,” he said.