SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Superintendent Dennis Tobin announced his retirement at the August Board of Education meeting on Monday.
“After 35 years in education, 29 of them in Sparta,” Tobin will be leaving on December 1. “It was a difficult decision; I’ve been thinking about it for a year. It’s a time consuming position and I don’t think I can continue to do the job the way I know it should be done.”
Tobin’s path as an educator has taken him through all levels from classroom to administration, and covered all grade levels as well. He began as a teacher and coach at Sparta High School then moved to an assistant principal position at Helen Morgan elementary school. He went to Jefferson Township where he was vice principal at the high school. Next he spent two years as athletic director and director of student activities at Hopatcong High School before returning to Sparta where he was the principal of Helen Morgan for seven years.
Tobin next went to Hardyston for three years as superintendent and middle school principal before returning again to Sparta to serve as principal at Sparta High School for four years. He took the position of Sparta superintendent in 2012.
“I have had a unique opportunity to have experienced all of the grade levels,” said Tobin in an interview. “I have been able to watch a kindergartener walk into school on the first day and then 13 years later speak at his graduation.”
He said he is proud to have been able to take it further than that when former students return as parents bringing their children to Sparta schools.
“That’s taking it full circle,” he said.
He also spoke with pride about the opportunity he had to bring all “stakeholders together to work collaboratively.”
He expands on this theme talking about what it was like for him to be a coach early on in his career. He spoke about working with student athletes to not only be successful in sports, “we all are working to the same goal to win,” but also teaching them life skills and watching the hard work pay off.
“I still hear from my former players. They tell me where they are and how they are doing,” said Tobin.
Tobin spoke about the challenges facing educators today, especially in terms of testing and funding. Agreeing that a lot of time is spent on developing the whole child; developing skill of leadership, confidence, communication, conflict resolution, Tobin laments “the state written tests take none of that into account,” and yet those are the skills “that prepare our students to lead successful lives.”
The current funding situation and salary cap “cannot continue,” said Tobin because they are affecting education. “We educate students well in New Jersey, but not as efficiently as it could be.”
Reflecting on his career Tobin said he will “take many fond memories with me. I wish everyone in the Sparta school community continued success and nothing be the best in the future. It’s been a privilege to have worked here in Sparta.”