Updated: Sep 18, 2022
By Kayla Bleier
Lead Editor/Centerspread Editor
In the middle of this school year, Dr. Darin Katz announced that he will be taking a head of school position in a different institution and moving to Detroit. The news was shocking to the Barrack Community and, soon after, the new system that will come into effect next school year was announced. The Barrack community will suffer a great loss, but it is proud that our own ‘DDK’ is taking this great step forward in his academic career.
Two weeks into the new online learning system, the author interviewed Dr. Katz to capture and record the feelings of sadness and anticipation revolving around his approaching departure. Here are the highlights.
What will you miss about Barrack?
DDK: I am definitely going to miss ... forming the really strong relationships with students … watching them grow up from young teenagers into young adults ... helping them move on to college and beyond. [I will miss] just watching a generation of students grow up at Barrack.
What are you looking forward to in your new home, school, and environment?
DDK: I am really looking forward to, first of all, getting to know a new Jewish community in Metro-Detroit. Getting to know the school community.
[Also] the job of the head of school is very different than the job that I have right now, so that brings new challenges and opportunities that are exciting ... because I have never done them. And the school that I’m going to in Metro-Detroit has been around for 63 years; it has been around for almost as long as Barrack. I really look forward to taking the school to the next step so that it can continue to be a pillar of the Jewish community in the Detroit area.
….I am going to miss everybody, I am going to miss my colleagues a lot. I am going to miss the students a lot. But at the same time, when an opportunity presents itself, it’s important to take it.
Next year, Barrack is instituting a new system of leadership Is there anything you want to say about that?
DDK: I am completely confident in who will be taking over various parts of my job. Mr. [Tom] McLaughlin, Humanities Chair, will be the Upper School Academic Dean. He is going to really oversee the academic program along with the department chairs. Coach [Justin] Cooper, Physical Education and Health Chair, will be the Upper School Dean of Students, [and] he will oversee student life issues, discipline, publications, and clubs. He will [also] still oversee athletics. And then, Mrs. [Rebecca] Trajtenberg, Director of College Guidance, is going to oversee academic advising for the whole upper school. She will help make sure students are at their right level, and with the right elective and courses that they have to choose. So really the three of them, Mr. McLaughlin, Coach Cooper and Traj, are taking over all of the parts of my job and I am completely confident that they … will continue the excellence that we have in the upper school.
Do you think that Mrs. Trajtenberg’s new position will have an effect on the college process for current and next year’s seniors?
DDK: Not at all. The truth is, she has actually already been doing [academic advising] for eleventh and twelfth graders for years. Now she is just adding the ninth and tenth grades …. there is not a whole lot extra that comes with that. So I don’t think that there would be any effect on eleventh and twelfth graders. The benefit of it, quite frankly, is that the ninth and tenth graders will get to know her better than they do now.
What is your connection going to be, and how involved in Barrack will you be after you leave?
DDK: I am going to stay really involved because I am going to be a parent still. I am going to be getting all of the parent emails, I plan to visit Philadelphia often next year, and I want to stay very involved. Not in the day to day operations anymore, but certainly stay involved as a parent of a senior. … I’ll be back for the shows and definitely for graduation and I’ll visit on the weekend. Maybe if I come in early enough on a Friday, I’ll be able to stop by the school to say hello to everybody.
Most of the changes connected to your departure seem to be happening in the high school, but is anything going to change in the middle school?
DDK: Nothing will really change because I am leaving. Mrs. Chris Farrell oversees it, and she directs the middle school. If there are any changes in the middle school, it would be because Mrs. Farrell put them into effect, not because I am leaving.
What is one of your favorite memories or experiences that you have from Barrack?
DDK: Every year’s graduation. I think that we do graduation better than anybody. … It is always the highlight for me every year, to see the Seniors. I’ve seen them grow up. I’ve seen them mature, and that night is always very special as they are launched to the next part of their life.
What makes Barrack a special Kehilah, a special community?
DDK: The relationships that we form with each other, and those relationships between students and teachers, between students and their classmates. The relationships that people form with each other really last a lifetime. I think that the strength of the community is … about relationships. I think that that is what makes us such a strong community. … It is definitely something that I will miss.
(This next question was asked prior to the announcement that school will not reopen.)
Is there any last thing you would like to say? A message to the whole student body?
DDK: Hopefully, school will reopen. There is a chance but no one knows for sure. There's a chance we might not. It would make me super super super sad if this school year did not restart, and then I left, without really being able to say goodbye to everybody. I really hope that school can reopen … personally I want to be able to say goodbye to people in person …
The world around us is always changing, but now things feel as if they are changing more than ever for the Barrack Community. Dr. Katz has been and will continue to be a member of the Barrack family and he is leaving his students with a valuable lesson. It is important to take opportunities when they present themselves, grow from every experience, and challenge yourself within Barrack and beyond.