NORTHROP - Robert Patrick enjoys helping young schools find their footing.
In Indianapolis, he taught at a school with a fledgling music program. When he came to Martin Luther High School in Northrop just a few years after it opened, he wanted to kick start its music program too. Soon he became principal and, with a family to raise, settled in.
Now, 26 years later, he feels his calling is to move on. He and his wife, Sharon, are moving to Grand Rapids, Mich., to lead a small Lutheran high school.
Sharon and Robert Patrick
"The talents God gave me would benefit there," Robert said.
He was not looking to leave Martin Luther High, but when West Michigan Lutheran High School contacted him, he felt the time was right.
"They are facing some of the same challenges Martin Luther was when I came here," he said.
Robert explained that in the Lutheran school system, teachers and administrators submit information about themselves and their philosophies to a database searchable by other schools. It isn't uncommon to move around as schools find people to fit their needs.
"It is similar to pastoral calls in a church," Sharon said.
The Patricks announced their plans to move just after graduation last month, to give Martin Luther High School time to find a replacement.
Robert said the school has divided up principal duties among staff members while it searches for a replacement, and it has hired someone to take over Sharon's guidance counselor and Spanish teaching duties.
At West Michigan Lutheran High, Robert will hang up his teaching hat and focus on full-time administration, something to which he looks forward. Sharon will serve as a guidance counselor for the school.
Leaving Northrop after a quarter century makes for a bit of work, so although Robert leaves for his new job today, Sharon will stay behind to get their house on the market and sort through what they need to take along.
"We are downsizing to an apartment," she noted.
Although the couple are looking forward to living in a more urban environment, they were glad to be able to raise their children locally.
"It was a wonderful place to raise children," Sharon said. "This was a longer stay, mostly because we were raising kids."
Still, the Patricks are calm about their decision.
"I think so many things have fallen into place," Sharon said. "You just feel like it is really God-directed. The community has been very supportive of us and our decision."