Assabet Principal Hollick announces retirement

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Assabet Principal Hollick announces retirement
Principal Mark Hollick announces retirement from Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, effective Aug. 31, 2024. (Photo/Cindy Zomar)

MARLBOROUGH – After 32 years of working at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Principal Mark Hollick has decided to hang up the keys to the school and move on to a new chapter.

Hollick started at Assabet as a paraprofessional, after substitute teaching there during college breaks. He moved on to teach physical education and health, coach football, mentor and advise students and staff, serve as the curriculum director and then as principal.

An alumnus of the school’s culinary arts department (he still enjoys decorating cakes), he met his wife, Jodi, at Assabet, and both of his children graduated from the school.

“Assabet is in a great spot right now,” he said. “We just had our five-year renewal from NEASC [New England Association of Schools and Colleges], the special ed department earned an outstanding review from DESE [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] last year, our applications are over 600, and everything is going great. This is the best time to leave because someone new can focus on learning the job the first couple of years. It takes that long to know what’s necessary, the timeline and how to function as principal. Without having to focus on audits and certification renewals, it will be a smoother transition.”

The school will advertise the position both in-house and to the public with the hope of hiring someone by July 1, giving Hollick a couple of months to transfer 32 years of experience and knowledge.

“Being the principal is a 24/7 position. You have to be all in. I have zero regrets. All the sporting events, plays, robotics competitions, proms, JROTC events, and all the day-to-day interaction with the kids, that’s what keeps us young. Now I start a new chapter, with personal and professional goals. I’ll spend more time with my wife and do some traveling for longer periods than five days,” he said.

Hollick said he is still looking forward to staying connected to the community. He still loves to teach, so after a few months of decompressing, he’ll figure out what comes next. He is also still a call firefighter in Hudson, a position he has held for 31 years.

“I am so thankful for the role models I had that helped me develop,” said Hollick. “Jerry Pastner was my football coach, and I saw how impactful he was on student’s lives. Mary Jo Nawrocki, the first female principal and superintendent at Assabet, is another. I always wanted to be as good as them or try to be even better. I can’t thank Mary Jo enough for taking a big risk hiring me as a principal at just 38. I always wanted to perform beyond her expectations and get her approval. Gene Carlo, the former superintendent, was also a role model. He always wanted AV to be one of the top schools in the area. Carlo used to say that every decision had to have three yeses’…It had to be good for the students, for the staff and for the school. Ken Nicalek, a former teacher, was rock solid and pushed me as a young teacher. Dave Tobin, another former superintendent, is an AV icon who taught me to dig deeper when necessary.”

Throughout the years, Hollick has formed an emotional connection with the students and notices details that allow him to remember names, technical programs and family histories.

“You have to let them know they are important to us, that they have chosen to be here, so we want them to feel welcome and safe, always. We like to set a tone that if you work hard, you’ll get something out of it. Good things will happen,” Hollick said.

‘A huge part of why Assabet is so successful’

Hollick announced his retirement to the School Committee and sent a copy of his letter to the staff the next day.

Ryan Crory, a 2012 graduate who currently teaches and coaches at the school, said that Hollick was the adviser to the principal’s leadership team and also was a mentor of sorts to Crory after he was hired.

“He [Hollick] has created such a safe and inclusive environment throughout the school so that every student is included in a culture of respect and kindness. He is such a huge part of why Assabet is so successful. He knows every student’s name, makes genuine connections and actually cares,” said Crory.

“He is always ready with words of encouragement, or to lend a listening ear. He is always the most enthusiastic and ready to celebrate anyone’s accomplishments. His legacy will extend far beyond Assabet,” Crory said. “The things he’s done for so many people, and his resilience and integrity, will remain long after he’s retired. He urged me to get into coaching my first year teaching here and shared his own experiences. I owe a lot of where I am today to him. In fact, I feel badly for whomever comes next because it will be hard to do even a quarter of what that man does every day.”

Another former student who has returned to teach is Marcus Fletcher, who has led the robotics program for over 20 years. Fletcher shared some memories of Hollick going the extra mile.

“With the robotics teams we would often return after a competition weekend long after the gates at the school were closed, often in the wee hours. Mark would come from home to meet us and let us get back in, regardless of the time,” said Fletcher. “He was here for the students and their best interests and would always go above and beyond to make everyone around him successful.”

Former Guidance Counselor Dottie Manning said she has never seen a more dedicated teacher and administrator than Hollick.

“He could see any situation from four perspectives; as the student, being an AV graduate; as the teacher; as the principal, of course; but he also saw the whole student body and how a decision may influence all of them,” said Manning. “I appreciated the respect he had for every individual student. Teaching is a vocation, and a passionate dedication to children and adolescents. Mark’s life’s work was to be an educator. I wish him a relaxing morning having two cups of hot coffee, an afternoon doing exactly what he wants to do and an evening at home with no meetings to attend in the community. But I do hope he decides to write that book we talked about.”

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