We learned about the plan back in April, but Rye High’s new principal Dr. Derek Schuelein started in the position just several weeks ago, on July 1st. MyRye.com sat down – virtually of course – with the new principal and learned why he was called “One line Schuelein” in middle school and what this educator and father of three boys does with his free time.
Your name: Dr. Derek Schuelein, principal, Rye High School
MyRye.com You are the first in your family to go into education. What drew you into the field?
Schuelein: When I was younger, history was my least favorite subject. That was turned around by my 8th grade social studies teacher. He would call me, “One line Schuelein” in reference to what I’ll term the brevity of my responses to homework and class questions. I took his light-hearted prodding as a challenge and really jumped into the content and the work. Along the way, I discovered a profound interest in history. Continuing in school, I found that I was happiest when discussing history with others…in college, it turned out not to be a huge leap into education.
You started as a social studies teacher in the Bronx. What did you see there that drew you into administration?
Schuelein: I was impressed by the positive impact that my first principal had on that school. Over the years that I worked there, it became clear to me that the structure, professionalism, and focus of the school was directly attributable to her leadership, and that became even more apparent once she retired.
You have focused your career at the high school level – why?
Schuelein: I guess sometimes you just know. An interest in history always meant that I would be a secondary educator and I guess I’ve always enjoyed working with high school-aged students. I find it easy to relate to them and after working with my own elementary-aged children during remote instruction this past spring, I’m certain that I’m in the right place.
What drew you to Rye?
Schuelein: I was excited about the values I saw espoused in the Rye Commitment and about some of the active learning initiatives underway at the high school. There were also several aspects about the district that I found appealing. Over the last few years, the board of education has earned a reputation for supporting the schools and its leadership in a positive and productive way, and in addition, Dr. Byrne is very well regarded in administrative circles in Westchester. Finally, and most importantly, the community is fully invested in the education of its children.
What are your three top priorities for the 2020-2021 school year?
- Acculturation. I’m already familiarizing myself with the expectations, traditions, and practices which are unique to the district, but there is much to learn.
- Build relationships. We are a people business and I need to get to know the staff, parents, and students if I am ever to gain the trust that will be needed to effectively support and assist them.
- Implementing the new schedule and other district initiatives in a way that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff in this COVID world.
Most people have followed the recent Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ activity and news in Rye and around the world. What is your prescription for students, teachers and staff? How can the schools make the best positive contribution?
Schuelein: First and foremost, with this conversation coming to the forefront I would hope that each student has a relationship with at least one staff member with whom they would feel comfortable sharing any experiences they’ve had. As we hear and learn about more of the issues, I think there’s an opportunity for schools to do what they do best, which is to treat it as a teachable moment that we can explore together.
You and your wife have three boys, ages eight, six and three. In the rare moments you get some free time, what are some of your hobbies and passions?
Schuelein: With 3 young boys, there’s no shortage of energy in the house. When I can, I like to try to get them outside to run around and play. As a family, we all go skiing in the winter and it’s been wonderful to watch my kids learning to ski and having fun on the same mountain on which I learned when I was little. Beyond that, I have the faintest memory of swinging a golf club at some point in the distant past.
Have you been to the Rye – Harrison football game?
Schuelein: Almost everyone I’ve met has asked me if I know about “The Game.” I’ve never been, but football is my favorite sport and I’m looking very much forward to being a part of the rivalry.
How much Garnet gear do you have already?
Schuelein: Joining the school over the summer and with everything else, I haven’t yet had the chance to pick up any spirit wear, but in my defense, I don’t own any Harrison gear either. In the coming weeks, I will certainly be adding to my wardrobe.
Thank you, Derek! Welcome to Rye!