Don’t call it a comeback.
Dan Durbin’s first few months as head of school at Beaufort Academy is his first time back in school since his resignation as Beaufort High’s Principal in 2012, but school is clearly where he belongs.
In his academy office — filled with drafts of school marketing materials and dry-erase notes on a whiteboard behind his desk — Durbin’s energy and enthusiasm belie the telltale signs of a career spent in education. His hair has not grayed and his eyes still widen when talking about simple procedures such as the morning car-rider line.
His own nadir may have come in 2013, when, despite good intentions, rules violations in grading procedures caught up with him. However, he may just now be heading towards a zenith.
“This is a great opportunity for me and for this school,” said Durbin of his new gig. “I missed being around kids and hearing about their hopes and dreams and how we can work together to solve problems.”
The key part of Durbin’s plan for the academy is differentiating it from other schools in the area. He concedes that those school, like his own, provide college-ready educations and safety for students. But he wants Beaufort Academy to be a school for leadership.
“We want our students to be the ones who step to the front of the class when they get to college,” said Durbin. “They should look at the world they live in and be equipped to understand what they’re seeing.”
To that end, he has already developed leadership classes that are now part of the core curriculum from middle through high school. Durbin himself teaches the 9th grade course on leadership and communication, challenging his students to think critically and globally.
“I’ve had this vision for 30 years of a school that cultivates community leaders through the application of ideas, not just abstract thoughts,” said Durbin.
The 12th grade project for seniors will include internships with local business and community leaders. The inclusion of a Civil Air Patrol program that highlights aviation and robotics is also part of Durbin’s plan to promote leadership concepts within the school, as is an enhanced vocal music program and speech and debating competitions.
If it all sounds like the bottled-up ideas of a man ready to brush-up his own leadership skills, it is.
Durbin chose to stay in Beaufort after leaving Beaufort High because he and his family had made a home here. Remaining a part of the community mattered to them.
Just over a year ago, during his five-year sojourn working outside the education sector, a heart attack left him lying unresponsive on a floor. Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina still aren’t sure how he survived or why he’s still with us, but many outside of his family will soon benefit.
It changed his approach to things a bit.
“For five years, I still enjoyed my life, but now I try to not waste time,” said Durbin. “This is my opportunity to not waste time and help make the dreams of these students a reality. I’m having a blast.”
Like other schools in the area, Beaufort Academy is still evolving. It may be unrecognizable to those who don’t know about Durbin’s vision.
But what they will recognize is Durbin.
Like I said, it’s not a comeback.
At least in terms of commitment, he was never really gone.
Ryan Copeland is a Beaufort native. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.