Roosevelt principal retires from alma mater

Outgoing Roosevelt High School Principal Mary McFarlane (left), 2010 Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency Administrator of the Year, celebrates the honor with Patricia Cole, superintendent of Wyandotte Public Schools.
By Chris Jackett
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – One of the most common sights at any high school is its principal.

Whether watching over students in the halls and lunchroom or keeping an eye on things at concerts or athletic competitions, a principal is often the beating heart of high school.

Wyandotte Public Schools officials and students believe this is true of Roosevelt High School’s Mary McFarlane.

McFarlane, 62, has been with the district for the past 21 years, serving as Roosevelt High School’s principal since 1994.

“Mary makes the high school principalship look effortless, enjoyable and fun,” Supt. Patricia Cole said. “She is the high school – setting a positive tone, advancing and improving education for our students every day, caring about every person within the school and district, and creating a safe and excellent learning community.

“She is bigger than life, yet unaware of her talents.”

A graduate of Roosevelt’s class of 1966, McFarlane always has kept her heart close to home, even while liv
ing and working in other states before returning to Wyandotte, where she currently resides.

“It’s a tremendous honor to carry on at the high school you graduated from,” she said.

Because her husband’s job often had him transferred between different states, McFarlane worked for school districts in Walled Lake, Clark County (Nev.) and Exeter (N.H.) before returning to Wyandotte for good. McFarlane and her husband have seen 46 of the 50 U.S. states.

“(He) retired three-and-a-half years ago. It was time to join him,” she said of her decision. “It’s time to move on to the next phase in life. I certainly want to spend time with my wonderful husband and family; make up for lost time.”

McFarlane said she wants to learn to play the piano, and the retired couple plans to visit the last four states they’ve never set foot in: Alaska, Hawaii, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Proud principal
In her 21 years with the district, McFarlane has seen a lot of students graduate after earning countless accomplishments as students.

“Technology has certainly changed the educational delivery system, but the mission here remained the same,” McFarlane said. “It’s always about student success. My proudest moment is when our students represented not just our school and community, but our state, in (President Barack Obama’s) inaugural parade (in 2009).

“Other proud moments have been to observe students work hard on a project and experience that success. It’s hard to verbalize the joy I’ve felt.”

Cole said McFarlane’s passion for student success is one reason the principal won this year’s Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency Outstanding Administrator of the Year award.

“She’s hardworking, dedicated, has a vision, is positive and attends to every detail,” Cole said. “Truly a good person who wants the best for every student.”

With more than 1,400 students and 100 staff members under her wing at Roosevelt, Cole said McFarlane took it upon herself to act as department chair for all high school departments because decreased funding resulted in cutting those positions.

“She meets at least monthly with each departmental group and has found this has given her a deeper and broader professional dialogue with her staff,” Cole said. “She has found a way to bridge the gap between departments, teachers and administration, and effectively bring the different branches together to work as a cohesive team.

“Mary McFarlane is the epitome of a great leader. She sees the best in each person – student or staff – and, because she sees our potential, we can begin to believe it. This creates the power of individuals able to make changes in cooperation, creating a difference that can be felt everywhere in Wyandotte.”

After 35 years in education, McFarlane attended her final commencement ceremony as an administrator on June 17. She’ll leave the district Wednesday as Assistant Principal Patrick Hickey takes over the role as Roosevelt’s lead administrator.

However, since she is a district resident, McFarlane said she still will be around for some high school events.

“I’m not always close, but I’m never far,” she said.

(Contact Chris Jackett at