Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
The Franciscan School has gone through many seasons since its founding in 2000. Even before the doors opened, and through each and every season, Mike Watson has played a role in the development and success of our great school. He’s worn many hats during this time, as a parish community member, as a parent, a teacher, a middle school assistant principal, and as school principal. Mike’s legacy is profound; rich with innovation, leadership, and a deep love for the community. As Mike prepares to retire from his 16 years serving at the school, we hope to send him off with our appreciation and gratitude for his long-standing commitment to TFS.
When the steering committee for The Franciscan School convened in 1998, Mike joined the team that would create a foundation for one of the largest Catholic schools in North Carolina. As a father of two young daughters at the time, Mike believed in Catholic education and wanted to help provide this opportunity for the Raleigh community. Father Mark Reamer, former priest at St. Francis shared that “Mike invested his time, talent, and treasure to envision what could be at TFS, not only for his own children, but for generations to come.” He helped the school open its doors in 2000, and while Mike continued in his career as a scientist, he supported the school community as an involved parent. He was instrumental in launching the athletic program and served in the role as coach when needed.
A few years later, following the sudden passing of his brother, Mike decided to contribute in a more meaningful way to the next generation by becoming a substitute teacher and then a 6th grade science teacher at TFS. He was able to share all the knowledge and experience he had gained in the science world, but also uniquely blended faith and science together. He first earned his teacher certification, and then later a Master’s degree in School Administration from North Carolina State University.
Mike was quickly recognized as a stable leader at the school, and he seamlessly stepped into the Assistant Principal role for the middle school from 2010-2016. For those valuable years, Mike helped mentor middle school teachers and implement curriculum that helped students grow both academically and spiritually. Kristen Dellasega, 8th grade Language Arts teacher who began working with Mike during his assistant principal days, says “Mike is approachable, hard-working, driven, and people-centered. I never felt anything less than 100% supported.”
In 2016, Mike began a new season at TFS. Not as a parent, not as a teacher, and not as an assistant principal. Mike took the helm of the school, leading with resilience, conviction, and dedication for the next six years. Mike has embodied the spirit of the school’s strong community, uniting during times of difficulty and times of celebration. “Mike’s approach,” says Father Jim, “blends together the mind and heart in learning that is embraced, not just for the sake of knowledge, but learning that advances what it means for us to be creations of a loving God destined to do good in this world.” Mike has always put students first, and he has not sacrificed what’s best for the students’ safety and school experience.
The last three school years have likely been the most challenging for any school administrator in our country, nevertheless our world. Mike has successfully carried a school community through so many changes, so many decisions, and in such intense environments. Joanne Sullivan, school nurse, shares that “Mike’s legacy has to be the way he led us through the pandemic with endurance, acceptance, commitment, and resilience.” Cristina Gautier, 3rd grade teacher, also shared that “Mike’s strong leadership was evident in how he handled our school during the pandemic. He leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership, pride, and faith.”
The TFS school community has forever been shaped and changed by the unwavering dedication of Mike. “Mike’s love of community shows in everything he does,” says 1st grade teacher Julie Sperrazza. Kristen Dellasage adds “Mike cares deeply for the students on campus. He knows them all by name. As a coach, church member, former teacher, and principal, Mike is rooted in his love here on campus.” In the words of TFS former priest Father Mark, “For Mike, it was always a ministry, never a job.”
Through every season, Mike has been a part of TFS. We will miss seeing him every day as he greets students in carpool, or opens our days with prayer, or encourages students and teachers in the hallways. But we will continue to see his fingerprints on our school for many, many years to come as we embark on a new season.
Thank you, Mike. Congratulations on your retirement!