March 20 • 05:39 AM

Druker grateful for 'great run'

Retiring Imlay City High School counselor Paul Druker confabs with Times’ secretary Rosie Ruby. photo by Tom Wearing.

June 17, 2009
IMLAY CITY — When classes ended for students at Imlay City High School last Thursday, it also marked the end of a 40-year career in education for longtime counselor Paul Druker.

For those who have spent any time around the high school in the past decade, it's impossible not to have noticed Druker's presence— and his prevailing optimism. If there has been a cheerleader for Imlay City Schools during that time, it would have to be Druker.

Not only did he make himself available to students and parents during the school day and at sports events, he was equally accessible at home and around the community.

Along with his wife of 23 years, Laura, the pair formed a tandem whose passion for education and helping students succeed was the primary mission.

Druker recalls meeting Laura in the mid-1980s, when both were educators at Belleville High School.

"When I met her, Laura was the AP (Advanced Placement) physics teacher at Belleville," he says. "What I liked most about her was that she shared the same passion for education that I do.

"Neither of us have any problem with being accessible to kids or parents," Druker says. "People call me at home and at night. People usually don't abuse that. If I get a call from a parent, it's usually about something important."

Druker says while he has always put everything he had into the job, being a counselor in Imlay City has been particularly satisfying.

"This is a great community," he says. "We noticed that right away when we came to check out the town.

"The people who live here are very supportive of the kids, the schools and the community," Druker continues. "People are always willing to help. You can sense it in their voices and in their actions. Everyone realizes they have a stake in their schools."

It hasn't always been that way for Druker. He remembers a tone of negativity that pervaded the school district in Belleville; where parents and the community-at-large rarely rallied around their schools.

"I spent 22 years at Belleville High School (following eight years at the district's junior high), and there was never that connection between the community and the schools," Druker recalls. "When we came here, everything was different.

"Some of the things that stood out were the involvement of the local clergy and the support of the local civic organizations, like the Rotary and Lions clubs.

"You get a sense of what this community is all about when you look at a guy like (longtime resident) Harold Schonfeld, who still comes to every game and activity. There's a spirit of support and continuity here that doesn't exist everywhere."

Having counseled thousands of students, Druker worries about the futures of today's graduates in an economy that appears to offer fewer employment opportunities. At the same time, he fears that the financial crisis in Lansing will lead to severe cuts in programs for Michigan students.

"I think that with some of the new educational guidelines, we're going to start losing kids," says Druker. "The electives like band, art and languages are evaporating before our very eyes. They're pushing them out.

"It's all about trying to divide the diminishing tax dollar into so many pieces," he says. "It's forcing people to have to make some undesirable choices."

Regardless of the times, Druker believes that all students need to feel they have the opportunity to be successful. That starts, he says, with a stable and supportive family environment.

"Kids need that sense of security," says Druker. "When moms and dads are having financial, marital or personal problems, the kids feel that. It can rock the very core of their lives. The health of the family unit is a key component to a successful student."

Once at school, he says, students need a chance to be good at something, to give them confidence and belief in their unique talents and abilities.

"They have to focus on those things they can control and not worry about the things they can't," says Druker. "A kid has to know he or she can be successful. Even the brightest kids are filled with doubt and often question themselves."

Now that his career has drawn to a close, Druker says he has no immediate plans, other than relaxing and spending more time with his five adult children.

"It's been a great run," says Druker. "It's been fantastic working with the kids and the parents. I'm just very grateful to have been given the opportunity to come to Imlay City.

"I've had the support of so many people, including our superintendents, Tim Edwards, Gary Richards and Jim Earley. They took a chance at bringing Laura and I here, and we're very thankful."

On Monday, schools Supt. Gary Richards offered heartfelt acknowledgment of Druker's many contributions to the school district and its students.

"There are many proficient and dedicated leaders in education," said Richards, "but there are also leaders who, because of their commitment to education and young people, must be considered outstanding. Mr. Druker is such a person.

"He is a passionate advocate and true champion for students everywhere," Richards continued. "He has personally touched many lives, including my own. The staff, parents and students of Imlay City will miss him, as will I. Our school district has been a very special place because of Mr. Druker!"

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