Community celebrates Dr. Wagner
EAST NEW MARKET — The packed East New Market Fire Hall was full of laughter and tears as the community celebrated the career of Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Henry V. Wagner on Friday, June 2.
Dr. Wagner announced his decision to retire in December 2016, to be effective July 1. The Dorchester County Board of Education, assisted by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), conducted a nationwide search for Dr. Wagner’s successor, and appointed Dr. Diana Mitchell to the position.
Many kind words were spoken of Dr. Wagner from colleagues, friends, and family. It was clear that he has positively impacted so many lives throughout his career in education.
“Henry has completed a remarkable tour of duty as a teacher and administrator,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon. “His leadership here in Dorchester County, as you all know, has enabled this school system to make incredible progress in the past ten years, with more students graduating career and college ready than ever before.”
Dorchester County Council President Ricky Travers spoke to his personal and professional relationships with Dr. Wagner, and praised him especially for the enormous feat of securing a new North Dorchester High School.
“His heart and actions have always been in the best interest of our children. His honesty is second-to-none,” said Board of Education President Glenn Bramble. “He has set the groundwork for our school system’s continual improvement. We will continue that trend. We have nothing but gratitude to have served with this man.”
Remarks were also shared by Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37BTalbot, both of whom have worked closely with Dr. Wagner on legislative matters during his tenure as superintendent. He was presented with citations from the Mar yland Senate, House of Delegates and Gov. Larry Hogan for his lifetime of service in education.
Philip Bock, a physics teacher at James M. Bennett High School in Wicomico County, shared a few stories about his time working with Dr. Wagner before he came to Dorchester County.
Dr. Wagner’s wife, Jan Wagner, shared that what makes him such a great husband and leader is his authenticity and ability to balance the many aspects of his life that demand equal attention, such as being a husband, father, and grandfather.
Heartwarming remarks were shared by Dr. Wagner’s daughter, Amy Wagner, on behalf of herself, her sister Carrie, and their brother Steve.
“You all know Henry as an educator extraordinaire, an amazing superintendent, and Stephen Covey enthusiast of the highest order,” Amy said. “We are here to tell you about Henry the father, really, the best dad and Poppy a family could have.
“Thoughts and feelings about Dad permeate every stage, every aspect of our lives and that’s because he has always been there. We are so fortunate to have such an involved, caring and loving father. His affection was always free-flowing, his pride exuberant and so affirming. We learned so much from him, both by his teaching and by his example.”
She spoke of the many sacrifices her father made over the years to care for her and her siblings, and how he provided for them as the sole breadwinner in the family.
“Ever-loving, affectionate, and loyal, Dad is still the guy on crisis speed dial for all of us,” Amy said. “There is no better person to turn to for comfort, advice, or reassurance. Dad always, always makes it better.”
Tears were likely shed by more than a few in the room, including Dr. Wagner, after the loving message from his children, and kind words from all others.
Assistant Superintendent for Administration Dwayne Abt, master of ceremonies for the evening, was, however, sure to keep everyone laughing as well with his rhymes, and a humorous farewell video message from many of the DCPS faculty and staff.
Dr. Wagner included a few anecdotes about himself in his remarks, including the time he was charged with running the fire drill, in his first week as assistant principal at Parkville High School, only to forget to inform the fire department ahead of the drill. He realized when three firetrucks showed up.
On a more serious note, Dr. Wagner thanked those who organized the party and everyone for attending.
“Each of you in this room has been a part of a remarkable story of kindness to both Jan and me going back to 2002, and even beyond that,” said Dr. Wagner. “It was in 2002 that we decided to start a new chapter on the Shore – a decision that was quite a leap of faith since no one knew who we were. But God was looking out for us! For me, it was more than a little scary at age 50 to start over again. But there were opportunities to embrace.”
Dr. Wagner expressed his appreciation to those who gave him the opportunities over the years to advance from assistant principal, to principal, to director of secondary education, to assistant superintendent, and finally to Superintendent of Schools for Dorchester County.
“Once I landed here (Dorchester County) ten years ago, the sincerity and quality of the instructional leadership cadre became immediately apparent to me,” Dr. Wagner said. “The DIS leaders and school principals did their best to bring me upto-speed about Dorchester’s unique opportunities and challenges. They continue to serve with distinction.”
He said it has been a comfort to know he could depend on teachers, support staff, facilities staff, central office staff, administrators, and all others who work to keep DCPS going.
“Beyond all of this, I have been particularly blessed to enjoy the generosity and guidance of all of our business, community, government, faith-based, law enforcement, and attorney friends,” said Dr. Wagner. “You have recognized and addressed the specific needs of our children through our strong working relationships. I tried to list all of you but the chance of missing someone was just too great. You have been there for the children of Dorchester County and I thank you on their behalf.
“In the larger context, our County Council and Legislative Delegation have put the children first when it mattered most, and we have three new schools and consistent fiscal support as evidence of your commitment.”
Post-retirement, Dr. Wagner intends to continue, and perhaps expand, his adjunct faculty position with Wilmington University, possibly work on some writing or consulting, and spend more time with his wife and family.
“I have to close with one more thank you to a group of people who, for the most part, are not even here tonight,” said Dr. Wagner. “I am speaking of the children and families of this county. They have such heart and such resilience as they take on the challenges of growing up.”
Dr. Henry Wagner with Dorchester County Board of Education members at his retirement party. From left, Glen Payne, Dr. Henry Wagner, Leotha Hull, Glenn Bramble. Board member Laura Layton was unable to attend.
A golf-themed cake for Dr. Henry Wagner’s retirement party.