Sondheim says goodbye after 13 years on campus

Charlotte DeForrest

Sondheim’s administrative assistant, Dina Craft, is sad to see him retire, but is excited for him to spend more time with his family.

“The magnitude [of being principal] often didn’t hit me until I would go off campus for a meeting and I’d come back and all the cars would be in the parking lot. Somehow, I looked at all the cars and thought, ‘Okay, I’m actually responsible for all of this.’ It’s weird that it was cars, but I think it was a visual reference…There’s an overwhelming sense of responsibility [being principal],” Principal David Sondheim said.

On Jan. 20, 2022, Sondheim sent an email to the Redwood community informing them that he would be retiring at the end of the school year. This announcement follows his 13 year career at Redwood; his first two years as vice principal and the last 11 years as principal. Before coming to Redwood, Sondheim worked for 18 years as a science teacher and in several leadership roles at Archie Williams High School. 

I’d done leadership roles previously when I’d been at Archie Williams but [Redwood] was my first administrative job. [The new position] brought on some insecurity and nervousness. I wanted to do well, especially at a school that had done so well before,” Sondheim said. “I felt like there was support among the staff and the folks at the district office when I came, so I felt pretty comfortable coming, but nervous.”

Since becoming principal in 2011, Sondheim notes that some of the biggest changes he’s seen at Redwood are the rapidly growing student population, the increased presence of technology in the classroom and a greater emphasis on student mental health. 

“Trying to minimize the impact of [student population growth] was one of the biggest challenges. Keeping Redwood a school where you are not a number, but you’re a student that we know and we care about, is also a challenge as [the school] gets bigger. It gets harder to do that with every student,” Sondheim said. 

Sondheim’s administrative assistant Dina Craft believes that he has been a successful principal due to his emphasis on student success and his flexibility when it comes to administrative obstacles.

Preparing to retire at the end of the school year, Sondheim has been a positive presence on campus for the past 13 years.

“He’s always there to help. He doesn’t just stay in his lane as an administrator. If someone spills something and we call for the custodians, he’s ready to pick it up with paper towels. If a teacher is out, he’ll jump in the classroom. And if I need help with setting up for subs, he’ll help me. He’s always here to help everybody. He’s just so easy to work with,” Craft said. “He’s willing to do anything to make anybody’s job easier or to make it work out. He just wants every kid to succeed. Whatever their success looks like to them. He wants to see every student’s goals become attainable.”

Senior class president Claire McKechnie has been able to witness Sondheim’s focus on supporting student goals firsthand through her work in Leadership. She believes Sondheim is always willing to listen to student ideas or input and never lets setbacks disrupt his positive demeanor. 

“As a student walking through the hallway after class, sometimes I can be in a bad mood. But, when I see Mr. Sondheim walking in the hallway, everything lights up because he is always trying to say hi to everyone and saying ‘Hello, how are you? How was your weekend?’” McKechnie said. “He greets everyone and treats everyone with really positive energy and you can just tell that he cares for each and every student. I think that’s such a valuable quality of a principal and he’s definitely going to be missed because of outreach and impact on each student.”

Similar to McKechnie, Craft also admires Sondheim’s positive attitude and ability to be a source of constant optimism. 

“Sometimes in between tasks, Mr. Sondheim comes out of his office and stands here when the bell is ringing because it has a little bit of a tone to it and he does a little bell dance and it always makes me laugh when he does that,” Craft said. 

While she is sad to see him go, she is excited for him to have the opportunity to spend more time pursuing his other hobbies and with the people he loves. Sondheim hopes to travel more with his wife, sleep, learn to play the saxophone and practice golf.

Although he  will miss the Redwood community and the opportunities he has had to improve each student’s experience, Sondheim respects that it is time for him to move on. 

I don’t think someone should be a principal for 25 years somewhere because it needs change. I’ve come and done what I can and now it’s time for someone else to hopefully try to do what they can and hopefully succeed where I haven’t or improve on whatever I’ve been able to do. You have to have the stamina to do this job and I don’t have the stamina I used to. I think it’s the right time to [retire],” Sondheim said.