Karen deFranco

The tale of time really was a novel to him, and with his knowledge he could’ve been the walking novel of LM. But, as it turns out, he would become so much more.


I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Sean for two decades, although we began at different starting points, him as a Social Studies teacher while I started in Math, and our paths only truly converged a few years later when he rose to Assistant Principal and I became the Math department chair. Now thinking back, it’s no surprise Sean found his roots in history—after all, he was a natural history buff, who could recall hours and hours of the history underpinning our school district, from Hap Arnold to General Becton. The tale of time really was a novel to him, and with his knowledge he could’ve been the walking novel of LM. But, as it turns out, he would become so much more.

There’s two things that encapsulate who Sean truly was: relationships and service. Often, they went hand in hand. Relationships for Sean were key to forming a school culture and work environment that would not only enable students to thrive, but take pride in their learning. Family was his highest priority, and I like to think Sean saw LM as his second family, because he was always at LM and there for those who needed him. In my eighteen years as a teacher in New York before coming to LM, I never saw a principal spend as much time with students as Sean did. He would always be the first in the door and the last out, finding as many opportunities to interact with and get to know kids as possible. As an Assistant Principal, he connected with students in only the way Sean could, making sure it was always about their well-being first, and as Principal, you never saw his door locked or closed off to students—it was always open. Oh and if a bad day ever struck, he’d be ready with a classic one-liner that’d turn your sour mood into laughter instantly. No matter how busy your weekend or Monday morning was, he could make it bearable. His sense of humor was hands down the best.

Sean recognized that his ultimate responsibility as Principal was to the kids, and he made this his guiding philosophy throughout his time at LM, pushing for change even when there was little room to give. The most famous example of his creativity as Principal was Lunch and Learn, an initiative he piloted seven years ago during my second year as an administrator, in which he spent the preceding summer trying to work out every kink he could think of. Even with all of the preparation, he knew it sounded bizarre: letting 1500 kids free for an hour, what am I thinking? He knew deep down that it was a wonderful idea, but he was still scared. There was no guidebook on doing something like this, as he was going into uncharted territory as a principal. But that was Sean. He would encourage you to try it no matter how unrealistic it sounded and then ask for clemency later. When the Keystone exams were coming into being for the first time, as Math department chair, I thought it would benefit both students and teachers to have each Algebra class co-taught by two teachers—except at five Algebra classes apiece, that would amount to effectively paying for ten teachers, or doubling the budget. An impossibility, in other words. Sean made it happen. I don’t know what financial wizardry he pulled off to make it happen, but his efforts gave me some of my most rewarding years as a teacher, and for that I am forever grateful.

There are so many ways that come to mind in which Sean helped create the school experience you all now enjoy, so many ways in which he challenged the status quo to make LM a better place—creating interdisciplinary teams among teachers to enable content collaboration and make teaching experiences similar across subjects; investing time, money, and effort into building the high school he envisioned, custom fit with collaboration spaces, fascinating architecture, and relics of the previous building; implementing shadow classes, where every department chair and administrator would “shadow” the coursework of two students from each grade throughout the school day (I ended up taking a test in French; let me tell you, not my strong suit). The list goes on and on. But at the end of the day, Sean just wanted what was best for his students. He wanted LM to be the best place possible for students to learn and be themselves, and he went out of his way to make it happen. And through it all, he was genuine and lived “Character Counts” every day. That is the legacy of the man I have the honor of knowing as my close friend and colleague, and it will live on in all of us. Rest in Peace Sean.

Hughes with his fellow Assistant Principals. | Photo courtesy of LMSD Office of School and Community Relations

The Merionite Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest news in your inbox, every issue.