Scott Weinstein

We became each other’s support. I was grateful for Sean Hughes as a professional colleague during that time, but more importantly for his friendship.

Scott+Weinstein

As the Principal of Harriton, I never imagined writing a reflection for The Merionite; having to write it as a memorial for my close friend and colleague, Sean Hughes, is so unconscionable and still so surreal.

As principals in a two high school district, Mr. Hughes and I worked very closely together. The construct is set up to be competitive with two schools at the same level. While there is real competition in our athletic and academic competitions, with everything else we fiercely supported each other. I think our support came from the respect that we had for each other that evolved into a close friendship. We shared everything to make each other better and thus to make our schools and the student experience the best it could be. We had strengths in different areas, creating a synergistic impact and helping each other grow professionally and personally. We challenged each other in ways that would make most people uncomfortable, but Mr. Hughes had a way of turning tough times into laughter—he was the best I’ve ever known at that skill.

I was named Principal of Harriton in April of 2016; Mr. Hughes was already Principal of LM for eight years previous to that time. We already had a strong relationship and respect for each other, but it gradually became more profound. On March 12, 2020, we left school in the afternoon, not to return to our buildings for the rest of the school year. We didn’t know at the time that we were about to experience the most significant disruption and eventual recreation of education our country has ever faced. Since that date, we spoke multiple times a day every day. I still remember putting in my AirPods daily and walking around the neighborhood, trying to reimagine school from fully virtual to hybrid education to finally a return to in-person learning with options, visualizing the various changes to our schedule while listening to the needs of our students. Mr. Hughes valued student and teacher voices, recognizing that the school experience was always about the people.

I share the experience about navigating the pandemic as a principal because it exemplified his leadership and accentuated what Mr. Hughes was all about. He cared deeply for his students, his staff, and LM. I have learned many things from Mr. Hughes over the years, but what I will share with you is that he had an exceptional discernment of knowing what is important versus what isn’t. It was one of his greatest gifts. He valued laughter and people, and it is no coincidence that thousands now mourn his passing. His infectious personality and genuine care for others drew people in, was magnetic, and he spread happiness to those around him. Much has been shared about his quick wit and sarcasm, but nobody quite did it with a lighthearted enthusiasm quite like Mr. Hughes did. While sarcasm and positivity can be looked at paradoxically, somehow he pulled it off—it was his gift.

On a personal note, the last two years have been the hardest of my thirty-year career as an educator. We had to be the ears, the strength, and the support for so many in our school system. We became each other’s support. I was grateful for Sean Hughes as a professional colleague during that time, but more importantly for his friendship. Our woes and challenges would quickly turn into laughter and support. I will forever be a better leader because he was in my life, and I will also be a better person because of Sean Hughes.

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