Editorial: Goodbyes — and a thank you to Dr. Dan Brenner

In the first book in the humorous Douglas Adams’ series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is a moment in which dolphins, attempting to warn the human race of impending doom, are misunderstood as simply entertaining us with their communication in water shows.

Adams writes that their last trick, jumping through a hoop while whistling The Star Spangled Banner, was actually their way of saying adios to planet Earth. Translated, it meant, “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

We as humans may have more clearer ways of communicating our goodbyes, but often they present other difficulties — emotional ones. Maybe we know our children, like Darien High’s Class of ’18, are saying goodbye to a school system some have attended for 12 years. These students may be saying goodbye to Darien, and heading off to a college or university, moving out of their parents’ house for the first time.

Maybe some parents are watching their children leave preschool and become less our babies. Maybe they are “flying up” from fifth grade to middle school, as I saw recently with my own daughter. Or seeing their eighth grader hit the big new world of high school.

The Darien community has another goodbye to make at the close of this school year — to Schools Superintendent Dan Brenner.

Dr. Brenner was the first official schools superintendent to take over the Darien School District in 2015 after a tumultuous several years of special education problems and controversy. He replaced interim superintendent Lynne Pierson following the resignation of the former full-time superintendent in fall of 2013 in the wake of that controversy.

Dr. Brenner had his work cut out for him and arrived at a time when the relationship between this newspaper and the school district was less than ideal after its reporting on those special education problems. However, despite that, Dr. Brenner began his tenure with a clean slate with us and an understanding of trust. That trust has never been broken.

Dr. Brenner’s own time was not without challenges. Throughout, he has faced each challenge openly, addressing in the media, at Board of Ed meetings and even opening a Twitter account. That Twitter account subjects his decisions, wrong or right, to the public court of opinion.

He took on tough challenges, revamped the school’s commitment policy, made unpopular disciplinary decisions, and possibly most importantly, initiated the Fitch Academy. Serving a population of Darien students that had previously been struggling or underserved, that program has made and will continue to make a crucial difference in the lives of its students as per many of the parents from whom we have heard.

None of those decisions have left him without his critics. But as Winston Churchill once said, if  you have enemies, that’s good. It means you have stood up for something.

Dr. Brenner’s departure is a loss — but within that loss we can reflect on the district being better for his time here. We are grateful for his contributions and wish him well in his new endeavor at The United Nations International School.

In a season of goodbyes, sometimes the hardest ones to say are made easiest by the simplest approach.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.