One of the many parts I enjoy about education is that there is always a beginning and an end; whether it be a school year, moving to a new school, or the course of a career.
High school yearbooks record the memories of the school year from beginning to end, and much like these publications, the memories of an educator’s school years and imprinted in volumes. Each beginning is an exciting fresh start, with new students, colleagues, ideas, and perspectives. And each end is bittersweet; saying goodbye to the students and staff you have grown to love, yet embracing the closing of another volume of that yearbook.
This school year marks an especially bittersweet end for me as a man who I have come to admire in so many ways, one of the most loved and well-regarded principals in Jefferson County, retires from Lakewood High School.
My very first teaching interview was with Ron Castagna, and from that day, it was clear he was a one-of-a kind (albeit slightly against the grain) principal, with a mission of excellence. After five years of working with Ron, his leadership and support mean more to me than I could have imagined in that first interview. In this time, I have watched Ron advocate for all kids, become a well known voice in education, and go above and beyond in supporting Career and Technical Education, Music, Performing Arts and the many multiple pathways for students.
Ask the students at Lakewood High School, and they will tell you, Lakewood will not be the same without Mr. C. There are not many people who can silence a gymnasium full of high school students with just their presence like Ron can. And this silence is not out of fear, but out of the respect with which Ron has earned among our student body. As his final page in the Lakewood High School yearbook comes to an end, there are countless qualities I will miss about him. I will miss his inspirational pep talks in faculty meetings, his awful jokes, the moments when he puts on his “fatherly” hat instead of his “boss” hat, and most importantly the kindness and compassion he showed all students and teachers. I am lucky to have started my career with him as my principal. This man is the epitome of what it means to stand up for kids. It has never been about “me”, but about “we.”
Without a doubt, leadership like his MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Selfishly, I wish Ron could stay and be the Ron we all know and love as my yearbook volumes continue; but it is now his turn to enjoy life on a new path and time for him to start a new yearbook.
The walls of Lakewood High School will not be the same without him. The leadership of Jeffco schools will not be the same without him. But he has paved a path and shared a voice that inspires people to keep fighting for what is right for all students. He may be remembered for a lot of things over his 17 years at Lakewood, but above all, Ron is a man who believed deeply to his core that students are more than data points and that before you can educate their heads; you have to embrace their hearts. A lesson I and many others will take with us as our yearbooks continue to start and end.
As a final note, to those who think Ron retiring means he will disappear as a voice and advocate in education, you are wrong. He is a man who cannot be silenced…. especially when someone puts a PA or microphone in front of him.