SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Thomas Calder graduated his first class at Spotswood High School in 2005. On June 20, he sent his last, the Class of 2018, on to the next chapter of their lives. Now, he begins the next chapter of his. Calder's retirement officially becomes effective on June 30 after 38 years as an educator and an administrator.
While retirement has been in the back of his mind for the past couple of years, he made the decision earlier this school year that the 2017-18 academic year would be his last.
"It's what I always wanted to do," Calder said about his career in education. "I never went to work a day in my life. I just enjoy what I do."
Calder began his career in the Franklin Township School District as a Physical Education and Health teacher, spending 14 years in the school system as an educator and then as a vice principal. He then moved to the New Providence school system where he spent seven years as an administrator and an athletic director before finding his second home in Spotswood.
"It's a very personal decision to retire," Calder said, hearing from many folks over the last few years as to why he was still the principal at Spotswood High School. "Those are people who aren't happy with their work. I'm happy with what I'm doing. As long as I enjoy it, I wanted to stay."
Calder still enjoys it, especially the kids and he feels he still has the energy to do the job. However, as his 63rd birthday approached on June 29, Calder felt the time had arrived to say good-bye to the Spotswood School District and retire.
"I want to go and enjoy some things now," Calder said.
He handed in his keys the day after graduation since he had vacation days left though he hasn't felt the impact yet feeling as though he is simply savoring a summer break. He knows it will hit him when late August rolls around and it's time to welcome teachers, students and a new freshman class into Spotswood High School.
"It's been weird the last week because I think I'm on vacation," Calder said with a laugh. "I keep busy and I'm always doing stuff. I want to travel a little bit and I also want to enjoy life while I'm still healthy to do so."
Calder and his wife Mary are selling their Middlesex home and building one in North Carolina. They plan on heading south by the middle of August.
"I didn't want to overstay either," Calder said of his decision to retire. "It's in a great place (Spotswood High School). "I know staff wise we are in a great place. You have to have teachers who really care about kids. When you have them, you have a great school. I was able to create an atmosphere that's positive for teachers to teach."
Calder is also extremely pleased with his replacement, incoming Spotswood High School Principal, Dale Rubino.
"If I had to pick someone," Calder continued. "It would have been Dale Rubino. I'm so happy he's taking over. He mentored with me. He worked here for 10 years. A lot of life is about timing. He's sharp, He's organized and he loves kids. I know it (the school) is in really good hands and that makes me feel good."
Rubino taught at Spotswood High School before becoming a vice principal at Sayreville High School. He was approved by the Spotswood Board of Education as Spotswood High School's new principal on May 1 and officially takes over on July 1.
Rubino has been in contact with Calder during the past month and has made visits to the school in order to meet staff and students, helping to make the transition a smooth one.
"I hope that I made a difference in people's lives," Calder said when asked what he thought his legacy at Spotswood High School would be.
In his heart, he knows he has, receiving poignant letters from staff and students past and present as well as parents on the impact he's had in Spotswood High School.
"I know I created a culture," Calder said. "If that's the one thing I can say that I empowered kids and I connected with kids and I got and hired staff that would do the same."