When reflecting on his life and career, Broadalbin-Perth Junior High School Principal Wayne Bell describes taking a “crooked path.” At the end of the school year, Bell will reach a milestone along that path when he retires after 16 years as an educational leader at Broadalbin-Perth.
Bell arrived at B-P just before spring break in 2006 to take the post of assistant high school principal. He moved to the middle school two years later and has led the middle school and then junior high school ever since.
“It’s been a privilege to have the opportunity to live a goal, a dream, that I’ve wanted, and that is to work with children and try to make a difference in their lives,” Bell said. “My career has never been about me; it’s about the kids. Kids in middle school or junior high are at a crossroads, and we as educators have a great opportunity to try to help assist them onto a positive path. Whatever decisions I’ve made, first and foremost, have been about the kids.”
A hands-on leader, Bell particularly appreciated being able to see his students in a different light by participating in nearly all of his school’s Travel Club trips, as well as Project Adventure trips to Racquette Lake, Camp Chingachgook, and Lake George.
Bell grew up in Fonda, then attended SUNY Delhi, where he earned an associate degree in construction. Bell said he worked as a framer for one summer and “hated it,” but he continued to use his construction skills over the next three years to install storm doors and windows in housing for the underprivileged.
Soon after graduating with his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport, Bell’s father fell ill, so he returned home to run his family’s bar in Johnstown. Bell continued to run the bar for the next 13 years, until he noticed that he was working harder for less money. Bell had always wanted to work as a teacher, so in his mid-30s, he decided to pursue his long-time dream.
“I’ve taken a crooked path, but I think that crooked path has given me more of an understanding of the ‘real world,’ which really helps me relate to our students,” Bell said. “Middle school can be a tough time for a lot of kids, but I’ve always rooted for the underdog. As far as I’m concerned, if you give respect, you get respect. It’s all about character.”
After completing his master’s degree at the University at Albany, Bell landed his first teaching job as a math teacher at Herkimer, where he also coached football. After a year, he had the opportunity to return home to teach at Fonda-Fultonville High School, where he remained until joining the leadership team at B-P in 2006.
“Broadalbin-Perth is a special district, a special community,” Bell said. “I’ve never before been part of a district that goes above and beyond to offer support to those who work here and are in our community. There’s always a willingness to help others in need.”
In retirement, Bell plans to continue to serve B-P part-time as a school safety coordinator. Beyond that, Bell says the future is clear in at least one way.
“I’m going to be dying to live, not living to die,” Bell said. “I’m not sure what’s next, but whatever it is, it’ll be on my terms, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson said he anticipates advertising for an administrator to replace Bell later this spring.