Farewell, JRod

Isabel Gomez, Reporter

The finish line of this school is close at hand. As Seminole High School begins to close the 2021-2021 school year, we not only bid farewell to our seniors, but we discover our beloved principal, Dr. Jordan Rodriguez, is also retiring. He has been Seminole’s principal for a total of three years and has stuck with us through thick and thin, especially concerning the events of COVID. It’s a bittersweet end, but we want to honor the hard work and diligence our dear principle has put in throughout the years. 


Dr. Rodriguez has changed Seminole for the better and will forever leave his impact on us all. When speaking with him, I inquired about his point of view of Seminole when he just arrived. Dr. Rodriguez responds with “Seminole High School has had a legacy of excellence, we were in a very good place when I arrived here. The graduation rate was at the highest it has ever been, around 90%. Everything was clicking just fine. Pertaining to academics, we have historically had the academy of health careers, IB, we just added aviation and PSI High. Those wheels were turning in a positive way. Athletically we’re always on point for the most part sports wise, and the performing arts is always top-notch. So, my goal was to ensure that the ship kept going in the right direction and make some incremental improvements, and I feel we did.” Dr. Rodriguez was beaming with pride when speaking about Seminole exhibiting his love for the school even before he had even started working here. 


Following asking about his first impression of Seminole, I asked what Dr. Rodriguez’s biggest goals were for his time as the head of Seminole, he responds with “My biggest goal was to see that graduation rate improve even more so than it already had done. I wanted to increase student involvement with different initiatives, whether that was AP or enrolling in attendance for aviation. I essentially wanted to see the campus see some upgrades, we were overdue some facility improvements and we have done so. We have invested in technology, to put more technology in the hands of the kids, facility, and staff. We’ve hired some phenomenal people. I’m really proud of the team we’ve built here.” 


As Dr. Rodriguez goes on to explain his overwhelming admiration for his team, he mentions the recent honor grad ceremony and how he was astounded by the number of teachers who attended and being recognized who had been hired under his watch. This fueled a sense of pride, he mentions seeing Tammy Bradley, Lisa Johnson, Joseph Peeble, and Cory Lambert, all individuals that joined the Seminole family under Dr. Rodriguez ‘s watch. He explains that being able to physically see the kids responding to these teachers in such a positive manner affirmed that he hired the right people for the job. 


One of the biggest events in today’s society is how COVID-19 impacted our lives. To be our principal for one year then face the daunting monster that was COVID would have been overwhelming for most, however, Dr. Rodriguez took the problem by the reins and guided Seminole to a solution. Dr. Rodriguez explains that, “My job was to keep everyone calm, and keep everybody safe, and I feel that we did that well. The biggest challenge during this time was getting people to revert back to what we were doing before COVID. This year we didn’t have SCPS Connect, it was no longer an option from the school district, but you seemingly still had a significant amount of kids missing school. They were staying home and when it came to state testing, there were two years where students didn’t have to come. So, now getting students to physically come to school to sit for the tests that are now required is a bit of an issue. Our biggest problem this year and for most schools is the lack of attendance from students which we are trying to solve to the best of our ability.” 


Dr. Rodriguez faced a problem many couldn’t even imagine and he handled it with grace and efficiency. He made the safety of his students and staff his number one priority and has tried to ease the transition to pre-COVID times as much as possible. Dr. Rodriguez has helped Seminole get through a historical event that won’t be forgotten any time soon. He became the head of our school, leading us with his light in a time that we were left in the dark. His assiduity to our school and us got us through a tough time in the world but as we began to rebuild our lives, Dr. Rodriguez eased the adjustment to a normal school day, we will forever be grateful for his help.`


As Dr. Rodriguez says good-bye to Seminole he reminisces on his favorite memories he has experienced. One month he says what stood out to him was “reaching that all time highest graduation” that accomplishment showed him that his efforts weren’t in vain and were making a difference in the students’ lives. He also explains that “seeing and being a part of state championships, world championships, national championships were incredible” whether they are in our athletics or academics, Dr. Rodriguez felt proud of his Noles and their success. He also says he enjoys “seeing students create businesses that could very well become multi-millionaire businesses” By observing the beginnings of successful business men and women is surreal and if he can help them in any way to ease the rocky road to success he will. Finally, Dr. Rodriguez speaks on how “seeing the rise of the Latinos in Action, a club that has been phenomenal and a club the kids are so proud of. Seeing those types of initiatives come on board has been a really proud moment.” All Dr. Rodriguez wants students to be excited to involve themselves in their school and enjoy high school instead of viewing it as an obligation. We can safely assume that he has changed so many young minds’ negative mindsets of high school, urging them to enjoy their education and the school that provides it.


Good-byes are always emotional, Dr. Rodriguez will be dearly missed. As I began to close my interview with him I asked one final question that carries much weight with it. What is the legacy he wants to leave behind and with the students of Seminole? “If I’ve done my job, the ship won’t sink with my departure. This is thanks to the fact that we’ve hired the right people. There’s a great administrative team, great teachers, great support staff.  The kids also know how to do it the right way, overwhelmingly. So, I am confident I’ve done a great job and that the school will go on in a positive direction. And I will be cheering them on louder than anybody always.” A legacy is an important message that someone who has made a significant impact on others, leaves behind. In Seminole’s case, Dr. Rodriguez has taught us that making connections with others is something that will benefit us in more ways than one; caring about others is an important part of life and can change lives; and that the concepts we learn in school inside or outside the classroom are things we will take with us even long after we graduate and go off to the world. His impact on our school will resonate with all those whose lives he’s touched and then some. 


To truly understand the impact Dr. Rodriguez has had on our school to take a deeper look into the staff and their look on his retirement. First up we have Mr. Carpenter says “I’m sad about JRod leaving. I think the school is going to miss him but, I understand you got to spend time with your family. Even though its is sad for the school, I’m happy for him to spend more time with his family” Mr. Carpenter understands that although Dr. Rodriguez leaving will be upsetting at first, ultimately family should be priority, and now that he can do that he can be happy for the times Dr. Rodriguez did spend at Seminole. Mr. Carpenter states that his biggest impact on the school was that “he really cared for the kids, he went above and beyond. He would get to know everyone and their names. He wasn’t just stuck up in his office all day.” Finally, the legacy that Dr. Rodriguez will leave behind according to Mr. Carpenter is that “he made Seminole better and he will always be known for saying GO NOLES at the end of every announcement.” he is someone who has never hidden his compassion and care for his students. He has always built his students up and fueled them to take on the world with confidence. He is not someone who would hide himself in his office all day, he loves to interact with his students and truly see the environment they are surrounded by to better understand his students’ and staff’s needs. This is what separates good principles from great ones!


Another staff member I spoke to was Mr. DeCosta. When asked about his feelings on Dr. Rodriguez’s retirement, he says “I am feeling anxious, it’s weird being in this waiting period to see what is the district going to do? I’ll have you know that everyone in the entire county, assistant principal and principal alike, are talking about what is going to happen because there’s a lot that goes into putting a principal at the head of the largest high school in the district. Everyone is a bit anxious and we’re confident that something is going to happen, whatever that may be is going to be good but it’s that period of unknowing that is so apprehensive.” 


Mr. DeCosta also explains how Dr. Rodriguez has changed his life. He states that “I knew Dr. Rodriguez when he was a dean of discipline here at Seminole when I interned back in 2007. He made an impact on me when I interviewed for a job and at my second interview he saw me and pulled me aside. He told me ‘By the time you’re my age I want you to be in this position’ and ironically I’m at the age he was and in this position. It’s funny because he’s the guy that hired me to be here, he’s the guy that has watched over me at other schools and saw me progress. Then he finally pulled me over here and now he’s leaving, funny enough.” 


As Mr. DeCosta bids farewell to Dr. Rodriguez he explains the legacy Dr. Rodriguez will leave on Seminole, “I was only under him as a principal for one year, but one of the biggest things that I have seen him do here is the connection to the business world. He acts as this gatekeeper between the connections he has to the school and allows others to assist in funds to better improve. Another big thing is his hands on approach, many say that i run around this campus but so does he. He‘s not behind the desk principle, this greenery you see is his office. That visible involvement, between riding around on a golf cart, running around, chasing kids in different neighborhoods. A lot of these things you don’t see, these connections he forms and that tangibleness is what his legacy is going to be.” The connection that he has built with his staff and students is something that is special and extremely valuable and will be very missed.


Dr. Rodriguez has not only impacted students and teachers, but support staff as well. Our media center librarian Mr. Cox speaks about his admiration for Dr. Rodriguez. He says that “It’s sad but I am happy for him and that he is doing what is best for him. He’s got a young family and being a father and a husband is more important than any job. He is going to go on to better and bigger things I believe. I am very sad to see him go and will miss our day to day conversation but he is a great guy.” 


It’s a bittersweet good-bye but is ultimately going to be best for Dr. Rodriguez is the long run and Mr. Cox completely supports him on his decision. He also speaks that Dr. Rodriguez’s biggest impact is that “he loves the kids because he is still one of the kids and he’s still a kid even though he is of age. He is always here for any kid and has every kid’s heart in his heart. And he will take all of these kids with him when he even leaves here.” Once again the emphasis on Dr. Rodriguez’s connection to his students is what sets him apart from the crowd. He is a principal who truly values the well-being of his students and only wants them to be the best version of themselves they can be. Finally, Mr.Cox explains that Dr. Rodriguez’s legacy is “one of caring and one of compassion. The biggest thing he will leave behind is that students should always be willing to look for any solution for any problem.” Dr. Rodriguez has taught his fellow Noles not only information in the classroom but taught us lessons in real life, and a life lesson that many of us will take with us as we grow as individuals.


One final teacher that wanted to speak up on their thoughts on Dr. Rodriguez’s retirement is the AP English Language and Composition teacher Ms. Johnson says “it’s a bittersweet emotion, I feel excited for him as he starts the next chapter of his life, he gets the chance to be a father and be a part of his family. But the bitter part is that he has been such a great leader during a time of distress, during the COVID pandemic. Trying to get everyone back on track to do what we need to do educationally. So he has had a rough few years and I hate that it has to end that way, but it’s a bittersweet moment for us but going to be great for him. I wish him the absolute best” Ms. Johnson is super supportive of the changes Dr. Rodriguez  has decided to make a decision in his life and understand that it is the best course of action for him. She also explains that during his time at Seminole “It was pandemic years and I feel like he grabbed hold of the reins and ran with it, and I believe when did the best he could do under these circumstances. He was very innovative, strategic, straightforward and very supportive of us during that time” He was able to take control of a seemingly impossible time and got all of his fellow Noles through so tough times and hopefully he knows how thankful we are to him for his contribution. Finally, Ms. Johnson closes with the legacy Dr. Rodriguez is leaving, she explains that “the relationships he built with the students is special. I’m of that generation where we give people their labels. For us teachers, Dr. Rodriguez  is Dr. Rodriguez, but to the kids he’s JRod. But he has that relationship with the student body who absolutely adore him” Anyone stepping into Dr. Rodriguez’s shoes are going to have a tough time meeting the bar he has set so high.


As we send Dr. Rodriguez off, there are students who spoke up on their thoughts of Dr. Rodriguez’s retirement. Halin Lynn says “when I first heard of JRod’s retirement, I was really bummed out at first because he is the best principal Ii’ve ever met, but knowing he’s retiring to spend time with family makes up for it. His impact on our school is that every time I walk past him, he’s either saying words of encouragement, shouting at students to get to class, or saying hi to every person that walks by him. He is such a positive and humble asset to this school and pretty much a father to a lot of students because he wants what is best for the students and staff. He will be leaving Seminole with a positive and loving impact on the students and staff and will surely be missed. Thank you for everything JRod and good luck in all of your endeavors!” 


Another student, Flordalee Pino speaks on her experience with JRod’s retirement, she explains that “I feel fine with the retirement but I wish he could have stayed for our senior year. He’s made the school a great place and is the only high school principal I have ever known. So it’s a bit scary thinking that I won’t know who is running this school my senior and final year. JRod has set very high standards that I don’t know anyone will make. His legacy will stay with all of the students as they grow. I hope that someone with the same passion can take on his role, if not Seminole is going to feel so different. Thank you JRod for making Seminole feel like home and creating an atmosphere of family and care!” 


Lynn and Pino aren’t the only students who are going to miss Dr. Rodriguez, Dylan Huston says “I would have liked Jrod to finish out our senior year but it’s understandable that he wants to spend more time with his family. Jrod was not only a fantastic principal, but a great role model for the students at Seminole high school. Jrod’s support will leave an everlasting mark in the school’s history. Jrod’s legacy that he is leaving behind for the upcoming new principal of Seminole High School is his positive and energetic approach to the schooling system. With his wholesome outlook on our school, his support at football games, and his desire to make each and every student thrive will define what he is leaving behind at seminole high school. He will be missed by all students, teachers, and staff.Thank you and I wish you all the best as you pursue your own personal adventures.” 


Finally, Hannah Shapiro says “Of course I am upset to see Dr. Rodriguez leave, but I’m happy for him and I hope his replacement is as dedicated to our school as he was. Dr. Rodriguez has left a huge impact on our school. Between sports, academics, and everything else, there has been a lot of change for the better. Dr. Rodriguez leaves behind a legacy of inspiring students to be strong leaders and accomplish their set goals. So, I thank you for being the role model many of us need in life and hope you understand the true impact you have made on us all.!” These are just a few students who Dr. Rodriguez has touched and there are so many more. 


Thank you Dr. Rodriguez for all your efforts and contribution to Seminole. You have truly changed it for the better, from the programs you have instilled, to the connections you have made, and finally to the hands on approach that the students know you for. All these things you have done for us over the three years you have supported and enriched our school, have changed all of the students and staff for the better. We wish you the best and hope you achieve success in all endeavors! Thank you Dr. Rodriguez for everything, and in the words of JRod: GO NOLES!!