Last week, it was brought to the Nantucket community that Superintendent W. Michael Cozort, popular among both students and faculty members, will be retiring after eight years with Nantucket Public Schools.
Cozort first came to the Nantucket Public School System in 2010, after he stepped down as Superintendent in the Shaker School District in New Hampshire, which serves the towns of Belmont and Canterbury. He had served there since 1989, when he came from a staff member’s position at Lancaster Elementary School and became the Principal of Belmont Elementary School. He soon proved himself adept in the administrative department, and was promoted to assistant superintendent in 1997. Just four years later, he took the top role, becoming superintendent in 1991. While at the Shaker District, Cozort earned hefty praise for his work, winning the 2005-2006 superintendent of the year award.
“I was a principal and superintendent in New Hampshire before coming to Nantucket. The job is similar and kids are kids everywhere. We do have more diversity here and while that can present challenges, it also provides a more rich, global experience that prepares our students for the real world,” said Cozort, who was also full of praise for Nantucket and what makes it stand apart from other places he had worked, when he was asked about the specific challenges the position presents.
“Every superintendent faces challenges, but I think being head of the island public schools requires you to try to provide for the needs of a wide range of students and families, including vocational students, students with disabilities, English language learners and gifted students.”
For anyone who knows Mr. Cozort, it is clear to see that he truly does love his job and takes pride in both the job and the students. He is always engaging with students and connects with them on personal level, which is very rarely seen between students and such a high ranking administrator. You can often find him on the sideline of Whaler games, cheering on the team, no matter what sport. Cozort highlighted this connection, saying that the students are going to be what he misses the most about the job once he departs in June.
Not only will Mr. Cozort be missed in his position as superintendent by the Nantucket school community, but he will specifically be missed by the students of Nantucket High School.
Senior Deshawn Burton, who has a close relationship with Cozort, was full of praise, saying “Mr. Cozort is a great friend to have. We met through soccer since he would come to watch our games and visit practices. He really connected with the students because of his great personality and the time he took to get to know everyone. He will be greatly missed and I am honored to know such a unique and supportive person that taught kids to love after school activities, as well as to appreciate their schoolwork more.”
Class of 2018 graduate, Natalie Gammons, also noted that, “Mr. Cozort was a lot more than just a superintendent to these schools. He built relationships with the students, the high school students in particular, that really made a difference to a lot of kids. He not only was a person that students felt comfortable approaching if they had questions or just wanted to have a conversation, but he also made an effort to know who the students walking the halls were. I know he will be missed by many students and the rest of the school community.”
Knowing Mr. Cozort, many students were shocked by the news of his retirement. Cozort, only 65, does not appear to be slowing down any time soon and most students envisioned him walking the hallways for many more years to come. However, Cozort did offer more background on his decision to step down, saying “I decided this summer and told the School Committee at that time. We decided to wait until after school started to make the announcement, but it is important to get the search going for my replacement. My decision is a difficult one, but I just think it is time to hand it over to someone with new ideas and the energy necessary to tackle this challenging job.”
Cozort, who took over from former Superintendent Robert Pellicone, said that he does not yet know who will be chosen to replace him and doesn’t plan on being involved in the process of looking for a replacement.
For any students that are worried about not being able to see Mr. Cozort after his retirement, there is no need to worry. He plans on staying on island and was quick to ensure that students would still be able to find him on the sidelines during their sports season.
The School Committee will now begin the arduous task of having to find a replacement, and whoever it is will certainly have a tough task ahead of them trying to fill the shoes of Michael Cozort.
By Emmet Clarke