Teachers can pretty much tell immediately which of their students have been raised well, and which have suffered from a deficit in parenting. The latter are often suspicious of education and critical of its efforts. The students with enlightened, loving parents generally approach school with respect and good will. I do not know Barry Mills, but I can tell you that William, Henry, and George Mills were raised very well indeed.
“Barry Mills was The Dream Parent.”
I had the privilege of teaching each of the boys in my English class at Brunswick High School. A great student can change the course of a class, and anyone who has worked with the Mills boys will tell you they made their mark. They came to our small-town high school from some pretty swanky halls, and word in the cafeteria was that they were some rich New Yorkers, come to see what stuff we were made of. Then—lo and behold—it turned out these kids were smart, funny, humble, exceedingly polite, and a blast to teach. The school fell in love with them and for good reason.
At open house, Barry and Karen showed up and listened to my shtick about how hardcore I was, how all late work would earn an automatic 50, how reading quizzes would count for forty percent of the grade, how vocab quizzes would consist of one word only, and if the kid didn’t know it, he would get a zero. They scanned the list of books we would read and quietly took notes. When the bell rang, signaling parents to shuffle to their child’s next class, Barry came up and introduced himself. He shook my hand and said the books I had selected were wonderful, that my vocab policy sounded smart, and that he loved how much emphasis I was placing on close reading.
In short, Barry Mills was The Dream Parent.
Over the span of the three boys’ high school careers, I did not see much of Barry Mills. When I did, it was always a brief encounter—in a crowded hallway, at a track meet at Farley, after Henry’s graduation, and once in front of Little Tokyo on a blizzardy night. Despite the infrequency of our communication, Barry always had a good word for my teaching, and for the school.
I believe deeply in public education. As president of a private institution, Barry’s very public support meant a lot. I always admired the trust he put in our faculty, and in me. He understood that the relationship between the college and the [Brunswick] high school is important, and over the years he did a lot to encourage that connection.
We no longer have the Mills boys in our classes, and I miss them. If Barry Mills is anything like his boys, I imagine he will be missed as well.
English teacher, Brunswick High School