Superintendent of Schools Robert Pritchard, Ed.D. fielded questions from South Orangetown Middle School students during the school’s grade-wide assemblies today, in recognition of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday. “Dr. Pritchard has been our superintendent since you were in kindergarten,” Principal Chad Corey, Ed.D. noted during the sixth-grade assembly. “It’s important that we get to know you and that you get to know us, too.”
Pritchard, a West Point Military Academy graduate, served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1984-1988 and in the US Army Reserves, which included a year-long combat tour in Afghanistan in 2002-2003. He retired from the Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2008.
Students asked about Pritchard’s motivation for joining the Army, his education and training at West Point, important leadership qualities and skills and lessons he learned from his service that he uses today. He shared that he had found success in swimming and became a state champion his junior year of high school. West Point hosted the state championship and Pritchard was approached by a coach who encouraged him to apply. “At the time, I thought it was an opportunity to get control of my life and do something exciting with other people like me,” he explained. “My parents were poor and West Point was free, so I was glad not to burden them with paying for college.”
On leadership, Pritchard said, “I’ve found that the most important leadership qualities are being honest and grateful. When I was in Afghanistan, every day at 5PM, when we returned to the base, we’d be so happy that we had made it safely through another day, that we’d take a moment to be grateful. As a leader, it’s especially important to be appreciative. There is no joy without gratitude and people are more willing to listen to and follow you when they know that you appreciate them.”
The organizational skills he learned in the military continue to serve him today. “One of the most important lessons I learned was to plan out my day. It’s important to have a plan to keep you focused, even though things may change. I try to envision what my day, my week and my year is like and communicate that to the people around me,” stated Pritchard.
In closing, Corey reminded students to remember and acknowledge veterans of all wars and to honor them for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice. Thank you for your service, Dr. Pritchard!