Michael Piper (right) assistant principal at Lynnwood High School, will become the principal for the next school year. Dave Golden, who is reaching retirement, is demoting himself to assistant. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Michael Piper (right) assistant principal at Lynnwood High School, will become the principal for the next school year. Dave Golden, who is reaching retirement, is demoting himself to assistant. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lynnwood principal to swap roles with promising assistant

LYNNWOOD — Dave Golden wasn’t quite ready to retire, but he didn’t want to lose a promising young assistant principal to another school.

And that possibility seemed increasingly likely.

So Golden hatched a plan in October, one he ran by the top administrative leaders in the Edmonds School District as well as key members of the Lynnwood High School faculty, including the school’s other assistant principal.

After more than 28 years as a high school principal, including the past 17 in Lynnwood, Golden’s idea was to give himself a demotion and have his understudy become his boss.

Golden, in his 60s, figured the switch would be good for the school and his own sense of challenge.

It was late February before Golden called Michael Piper into his office and closed the door.

He began the conversation: “Hey Mike, guess what?”

Golden’s proposal caught Piper off guard.

Piper, in his 30s, wondered what district leaders and school staff would think.

Golden explained that he had spoken with them and they were on board.

Piper’s thoughts went from feeling flattered that others had confidence in him to hoping they hadn’t overestimated his abilities. Mainly he was grateful to the man sitting across the desk from him.

“He knew my dream was to stay here,” Piper said.

One of the first people Golden had approached last fall was an assistant superintendent at the district, Patrick Murphy.

He explained to Murphy that perhaps his most rewarding time in his education career was when he was an assistant principal, a job he first took in New York in 1979. It was in that position he was able to work most closely with students and their families.

Golden also told his boss that Piper was ready and he’d like to be there to help with the transition.

“Leave it to Dave Golden to think outside of the box,” Murphy said. “What I love about Dave is there no ego. It’s really a selfless act on his part.”

Golden said he likes to take on a new challenge every five to seven years. Those were his lengths of stays as a principal in New York and at Marysville Pilchuck High School. In a sense, that was the same time frame at Lynnwood High School, too. He led the school in the old building by Alderwood mall and helped plan the new one on North Road east of I-5.

As for Piper, he is climbing the ranks in a school district he attended as a child. He went to Brier Elementary School, just as his daughter does now. He taught math and humanities for 10 years at Brier Terrace Middle School, another school where he was once a student, before graduating from Mountlake Terrace High School.

He was quite content in the classroom, but had been encouraged to consider pursuing his administrative credentials.

He figured he would give helping lead a school a try, but made no commitments. He wasn’t going to leave something he loved for something he didn’t.

He quickly found a home at Lynnwood High. He admired the staff, enjoyed the diverse student body and embraced the school’s commitment to academic equity. He senses momentum as more students, some from low-income homes, are taking increasingly challenging course loads that include honors and Advanced Placement classes.

“The second I came here, I fell in love,” Piper said in the main office the other day, his portable radio chirping with questions and updates. “I didn’t want to leave.”

Assistant Superintendent Murphy monitored things last fall as Golden made the rounds, asking people what they would think about the job switch. They’d both agreed the proposal needed input — and support — from others. Over weeks and months, many people were approached without Piper’s knowledge.

They’ll swap roles over the summer.

Murphy will be watching the handoff with interest.

“This is unorthodox; this is unusual,” Murphy said. “But it makes absolute sense.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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