After 13 years of leading Race Brook School as principal, Mike Gray announced that he is leaving the role to become Director of Business and Operations for the Orange Public Schools.
“The decision to step away from Race Brook School (RBS) was certainly not an easy one because of my deep connection to the school, students, families and staff,” Gray said in a letter to families. “For over a decade I have had the great privilege to serve as principal and I will always cherish my years at RBS; I consider those years to be a rewarding time in my life,” he says.
Gray is admired for making students feel special and respected – he knew each of his students’ names within the first few days of school, often even noticing when one came to school on a Monday morning wearing a new pair of sneakers. He is known not just for being a professional leader, but as an active participant in the school’s community. Gray is known for promoting school spirit and wrote his own rendition of Phillip Phillips 2012 song “Home,” adding ‘We’re going to make Race Brook our home.’ He had a knack for when students needed him to break out his guitar and sing and play for them.
Each fall, students (and parents!) anxiously awaited to see which characters the front office staff would dress up as for Halloween, then he’d parade them around the school track dressed as Harry Potter or Goldilocks. In the spring, Gray would be found emceeing a 52-act Friday night talent show. He is known for never being ashamed to let his inner child show, yet he is openly admired by administrators for his ability to clap once in a gym filled with lively children and bring instant silence and attention. In 2014, Gray was given the State Association of Schools’ National Distinguished Principal Award, also known as the State Elementary School Principal of the Year Award.
“I am extremely proud of the incredible faculty and staff and the collaborative work we have accomplished in support of our Race Brook students. Together, as a school community, we have created a warm, safe, fun and enriching learning environment where our students have grown and prospered,” Gray says.
Well-loved and as humble as they come, he has made a special mark on the elementary school, especially during challenging times. When a flood closed Peck Place School one winter, he and his staff took in half of the school’s students without a noticeable change at RBS. Under Gray’s reign, the school implemented a PBIS program that focused on positive behavior, respect and kindness utilizing the RBS acronym: Respect Others, Be Responsible and Safety First. He introduced students to Racey, a life-size raccoon that would serve as the school’s mascot at events.
He doesn’t just know how to have fun, he is a strong leader with 25 years in education, coming to Orange from Stratford schools. Prior, Gray worked as a carpenter for a licensed contractor for twelve years and brings a wealth of experience in building and maintenance to this position, Schools Superintendent Vince Scarpetti says.
“Recently Mr. Gray was elected to serve on the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation and is currently serving a two-year term. It is this combination of professional and administrative tenure in education, civic service and extensive residential and commercial remodeling experience that made Mike the ideal candidate for this position,” Scarpetti says.
“There is no question, Mr. Gray will be missed as the principal of RBS, but we are honored he will continue to be a part of the Orange community providing vital leadership skills in his new role,” Scarpetti says.
Looking forward to what lies ahead, Gray says, “I am fortunate to have been a part of such a vibrant and supportive community, a community where education is valued as a top priority by students, teachers and parents alike. It is that value placed upon education that led me to this decision. When I became aware that an opportunity existed that would allow me to broaden my professional experience while still being able to serve the incredible Orange community, I knew the time was right to pursue it.”
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Corespondent