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Superintendent's goodbye celebration 'special and emotional'

Canterbury Elementary School employees Doug and Cal Russwick share a laugh with Michael and Martha Cozort. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
May 19, 2010
BELMONT — With just weeks left in his 21-year tenure with the Shaker Regional School District, Michael Cozort was the man of honor at an open house last week as members of the community and past and present students and teachers came out to say goodbye.

"He's just such a wonderful man," Olivia Henry said of Cozort. "He's playful and loving … I only worried, did he ever have a life outside of school?"

Henry is the mother of this year's valedictorian, Tim Gurshin, who will go to Stanford in the fall. Henry said she feels blessed that Cozort has been a part of the district for all of her son's time there.

Belmont High School Principal Russ Holden said one of the reasons he came to Shaker a few years ago was because he'd heard so many good things about Cozort and wanted to work under him and see his leadership firsthand.

"He's just been a great mentor," Holden said.

Thirteen-year-old Patrick Akerman said he remembers good talks with Cozort in the past. He came to the open house with his mother, Colleen.

"It's going to be awfully hard to see him go," Colleen Akerman said.

She shared several attendees' sentiments when she said Cozort is ever-present at school events.

"He's always everywhere," she said.

Cozort called Wednesday's gathering "special and emotional." He likened the event to Old Home Day, as he got a chance to see people he hadn't seen in years, from retired teachers to parents of students he'd had a decade or two ago.

"It was talks with old friends about old times," he said.

Cozort said there were several people he was surprised to see, including the parent of a former student who is now doing comedy in Boston. Back in third grade, when Cozort was principal at Belmont Elementary, that student wrote the music and lyrics to the school song, which is still used today.

"I haven't seen them in 10 years," he said.

Cozort joked that seeing all the people he's formed relationships with over the years was a reminder of how old he is and said he'll admit now that his grey hair is earned and can no longer be called "premature."

Cozort's wife Martha attended the celebration with him.

"It's such a nice feeling to look around and see people who have meant so much to Mike," she said.

The Cozorts are getting ready to move from their home in Gilford, where they've lived for more than two decades, to Nantucket, Mass., where Cozort has taken a superintendent position.

"I've always been looking to go overseas (as an educator)," Cozort said, but his wife always vetoed his suggestions to move to Japan or China. "I finally got it. When Nantucket came up, I thought, that's over a sea … we fell in love with it."

Martha Cozort said she's currently in her first year of retirement as an educator and is "along for the ride." The couple has two daughters who live in Boston, and Martha Cozort has two sisters in the Boston area, which she said should make the transition easier.

Both Cozorts said the hardest part would be leaving a community they're so ingrained in and the "family feeling" they have here.

"Martha and I thought we might be able to recreate that in Nantucket," Cozort said.

The school district in Nantucket is slightly smaller than Shaker. The Cozorts plans to travel to Nantucket a couple times in May and June to find housing and familiarize themselves with the area. Cozort's job starts July 1.

For now, the Cozorts are getting ready to move on to the next chapter of their lives.

"This has been a special place and time," Martha Cozort said.

"It's more than a job," Cozort said of his time at Shaker. "I have just so many people that have supported me or taught me … Shaker has come a long way in 20 years."

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