“I don’t think it would have happened had he not said he was going to dye his hair green,” Zwerling-Jeffrey said.
The kid-friendly incentive is just one example of how Modrzejewski fostered a community of parents, students and teachers during his time as principal, Zwerling-Jeffrey said.
“It’s also very symbolic of how he was as a principal. He brought us together,” she said.
Modrzejewski will retire at the end of the school year, after six years at the helm as principal of Glenoaks, and 38 years as an educator in school districts in Northern and Southern California.
He started his career as a high school teacher in Northern California, teaching history, English and government for about 15 years before switching to administration. He moved to Southern California 12 years ago and worked as the principal of an elementary school in Thousand Oaks before coming to the Glendale Unified School District.
The students bring a vibrancy to life that will stay with him when he leaves, Modrzejewski said.
“I still enjoy what I do. I still enjoy the kids,” Modrzejewski said.
The school of more than 600 students will be losing a friendly, caring leader who always made time to discuss problems and who took others’ ideas seriously, parents and staff said.
“I think that he just has a way of showing kindness and respect for all his teachers and the children,” said Pennie Barnes, who teaches fifth grade and acts as the assistant to the principal.
Howard Martin, a special-education teacher who has been at Glenoaks for 19 years, praised Modrzejewski’s mellow nature and his ability to see the humor in everyday situations.
“You gotta have a little laughter every now and then,” Martin said.
Modrzejewski’s door has always been open to teachers who have concerns, Martin added.
He also has a knack for facilitating dialogue and cooperation, Zwerling-Jeffrey said.