In the Spotlight: Assistant Principal Don Gray


Abigail Cloutier

Assistant Principal Don Gray

Greely graduate Don Gray, 50, recently moved to the Portland area and left his job at Mount Ararat to become the new Assistant Principal here at Greely High School. A navy veteran and experienced assistant principal, he’s working with Principal Mr. Hoffman to update Greely’s learning community and improve student life. He’s eager to get to know both students and faculty and expand opportunities for both learning and community service.



Do you have any background on who you are, and who your family is, that you’d be willing to share?


I have a son who is 26. He is a captain in the US Army. He’s currently going to be transferring to work with the special forces. I have him, and then I have a daughter who’s 20. She’s been going to school, but currently, she’s just focusing on work. She lives down in Portland.


I actually graduated in ‘86 from Greely High School. I haven’t lived in Maine my entire life, but I did grow up here. To be specific, I grew up in Pownal.


What was your experience as a student at Greely in the ‘80s like?


I think in a lot of ways my experience as a student here in the 80s was similar – school spirit was strong – kids were proud of their community and school – and Greely had both strong academic and athletic programs.  Some differences now, I think, are that there are strong extracurricular programs across the board, not just athletics (an example is in the arts).


Also, we didn’t have access to computers like students do today. Cell phones were nearly non-existent – no social media – and all students used a locker.  Life may have been a little simpler in some ways, I guess.


I did participate in some extracurricular activities; I played baseball here one year. I also did boys indoor track and field club, and outdoor track and field.  


What did you do before becoming the assistant principal here? Were you a teacher?


I was an assistant principal at Mount Ararat High School. I used to coach football, track, and field, and I served as a Dean of Students there at one point. I also started up teaching physical education.


That’s where I started, although I have a military background as well. I served some time in the military, before retiring out of the reserves. I did a few deployments in the last several years. Since 2008 I did three one-year deployments, one to Iraq, one to East Africa and one to West Africa.


During my first deployment  to Iraq, I served in a construction battalion focused on contingency construction supporting the Marine Corps. We built and repaired air fields, roads, base infrastructure as well as building and improving combat outposts etc.


My second deployment was to east Africa, where I served with a small civil affairs and security training team operating in the north and mid-coastal regions of Kenya.  My third deployment was to west Africa. I was a civil affairs operator supporting special forces. During my last two deployments, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with USAID, several NGOs, as well host nation militaries and government officials in order to make some public school improvements in the area of operation.


When did you find out that you would be working as assistant principal here? How did you feel about it?


I applied in July when I saw that there was an opening here. I went through a few different interviews- it’s a very thorough process. I think it was sometime in mid-August that I found out. It was very recent. The two superintendents had to work together because I was still under contract in my old district, so they had to negotiate a good transition. At the beginning of the year, I worked at Mount Ararat at the same time I was working here, so I didn’t start full-time here till the second week of school.

There are so many opportunities to learn and to grow a culture of respect among students, faculty, parents, and staff. I’d like to see everyone working together. ”

— Assistant Principal Don Gray

How did you feel about coming to work here?


I recently moved from Richmond to South Portland. I was already making that one transition, so I wasn’t really looking to change jobs at that moment. I was pretty happy where I was. When this job opened, however, it was just too good to pass up. Having graduated from Greely, I was well aware of their strong academic and athletic programs and all of the extracurricular activities. It’s just a great community.


Taking all of those things into consideration, I decided that it might be a little extra work for me since I was trying to do so many things at once, but it’s worth it. I decided to apply, went through the process, and things just worked out well. I’m very excited to be here.


How has your time at Greely been so far? Have you had a positive or negative experience?


My time here has been very positive. Whenever you start a new job- even though I’ve had several years of being an assistant principal- you have to get used to a different place. Sometimes the processes and procedures are different, sometimes even the terminology that one school uses is different from another. There’s a lot of learning that has taken place about the way that business is conducted here.

Abigail Cloutier
Assistant Principal Don Gray

For example, Mt. Ararat had the OLC (Organizational Leadership Team), while Greely has the DLT (District Leadership Team). Mt. Ararat had that SAT (Student Assistance Team), and Greely has a SST (Student Support Team). Even the staff titles differ. Mt. Ararat had DHs (Department Heads), and Greely has a ILT (Instructional Leadership Team). I could go on, this is just a few.  MTA uses Infinite Campus as the main database system while Greely uses Powerschool and a few other systems. There are a lot of differences, yet many similarities.


I’ve been very busy, but the community here has been very welcoming and positive. The kids are awesome here. It’s been a great experience thus far, but it’s what I expected. I thought I was going to be busy, and I am. I like the challenge, I have to say. I’m really passionate about the challenges and the work that’s in front of me.


So far this year we’ve already seen some pretty big changes and new events. Do you plan on any more significant events or changes to student life here in the near future?


That’s a good question. As far as any big events- I don’t think this is a new event, but we have Challenge Day coming up in November. I don’t know if we’ll plan any other big school events this semester, but I’m sure we’ll have some others coming down the line this spring. There’s a time frame where you need to assess the needs, and then develop a program or events around that. I wouldn’t say that there’s none to come, but I think that other than what’s already planned for this year, more events probably won’t happen till later this spring. We need to work with teachers, community members, and students to get input from them.


I think there will be more changes, however. I talked to Mr. Hoffman, and we’d like to do a revision on our student handbook. We want student input and parent input on what to change, and would like a committee to review it. I believe we will include faculty, students, and parents on the committee to ensure we have input from all stakeholders. I’m specifically interested in reviewing the Code of Conduct and High School Procedures. With that said, we may have to breakdown a complete review and update into smaller segments over the course of the next couple of year- though we have made no decision about that yet.


Those types of changes wouldn’t happen this year, but we need to lay down the work to set it into motion for next year. We’re also looking at some possible opportunities for kids to do some community service. I’ve been meeting with a group on Tuesdays to see if we can work out something there. There’s always a need, and it’s a good experience for students giving back to the community. Hopefully, we’ll be able to implement that sometime this year.


There are probably six or seven different things I’m considering right now.  It’s just a matter of lining it up and organizing it. I doubt there will be many big changes in the immediate future, though.


To follow up on that, how successful do you think the efforts to boost student morale have been so far?


I think they’ve definitely been positive. I have to say that Mr. Hoffman is really taking the lead on that. I think that he was involved in developing our culture team. He has probably been the lead person in taking charge of that and looking at what activities we can do to bring people together in a respectful way.


Do you see any additional issues or problems that you’ve seen in your time here so far that you’d like to work towards solving?


I think it’s too early for me to speak to that- I’m still in the assessment process. If you look at an issue, you might jump to conclusions and think that it’s something that needs to be addressed immediately. I think that it’s important to look at all of the angles before deciding whether or not to make a change. There’s always unique things about a school community that either work, or don’t work, and you have to be careful not to go down a path of changing things that ultimately might not result in the best.


That’s a long way of me telling you that I think it’s still to early for me to make any grand statements about that.


Finally, what is your ultimate goal here at Greely? Is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish in your time here?


I think- along with Mr. Hoffman- we want to establish a community of learners. I think that work has already been done, but I want to take it even further. There are so many opportunities to learn and to grow a culture of respect among students, faculty, parents, and staff. I’d like to see everyone working together. We already have very good systems in place that are fair and consistent, but at the end of the day, we really just want to provide students with opportunities to learn and be part of the community. I mentioned the program for community service- I’m very passionate about those sorts of things.


I want to assess all of those systems that we have in place and figure out what other things we can do to make it more efficient and provide a better atmosphere for learning.

Correction:  Mr. Gray retired from the navy, not the army.  We apologize for the error.