It was a snowy and freezing day in late February of 1971.
Bob Reid, a young student teacher, was in the midst of his job search, having already applied to several school districts throughout New Jersey. After roughly a dozen interviews, he was still yearning to find the one district that he could call home. When he arrived in Mountain Lakes, he knew he had found it. While time always progresses, some things never do seem to change, especially in Mountain Lakes. The school system has long been an integral piece in shaping our town’s reputation of excellence. High state rankings, diligent students, and accomplished alumni have been some of the byproducts of this pursuit of academic prowess. Continued academic success, while desired by every school, is achieved by only a mere few. In other words, it is not something that simply just “happens.” It requires a commitment; from teachers, students, parents, and the overall citizenry. Perhaps, no one better embodies this commitment than Bob Reid. Since 1971, Reid has been a legendary figure in the classroom, sports fields, and yes, the Principal’s office. In that time, he has influenced the lives of countless students, faculty, and residents throughout the Mountain Lakes community. Recently, we had the privilege of catching up with Reid to hear some of his favorite memories from his time in town as well as what he is doing today.
MLAA: How did Mountain Lakes end up on your radar for your first job?
BR: Back in the fall of 1970, I was in a new 16-week student teaching field experience in Westfield, NJ. Also, at that time I was engaged. My wife, Kathy had relatives in Parsippany and we were invited to a get together at my soon to be in-laws. They had four kids going to school Parsippany and my future brother-in-law Bob wanted me to apply to teach in Parsippany so I might teach his kids. He took me on a tour of the area that ended with driving down the Boulevard. I asked him about Mountain Lakes and he said he thought it was all private schools. Having grown up in a two family house on the corner of Route 1&9 in Elizabeth, needless to say I was beyond impressed with ML. When I returned to my student teaching on Monday, I asked the principal at the Wilson School in Westfield about Mountain Lakes. He told me it was a great district and that Westfield was constantly comparing scores and rankings with ML. It was then that I decided to apply to ML along with several other districts all over the state. Well…after my student teaching was completed, I had a jump on many graduates. As I had finished my student teaching, I could actually begin the job hunt during January and February. I literally went on about 15 or more interviews with lots of promises of employment, but no real contract offers. My last interview was in Mountain Lakes in late February 1971. It was snowing, freezing and I got stuck in the less than plowed ML roads a few times. Then when I arrived at Briarcliff, they told me I was in the wrong school and sent me to Wildwood, then to the high school, then to Lake Drive. By then, I just wanted to go home as I was already over an hour late for my interview. They finally directed me to the Boro Hall where I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Don Langlois, the Superintendent. He was the youngest super in NJ, early 30s with a Doctorate from Columbia University. He had his secretary get me a cup of coffee and by the time the interview was over, I was offered an elementary teaching position and he said I would receive my contract with a week. He was a man of his word and my first mentor in ML. So…by the beginning of March 2017, I was lined up to teach at Lake Drive (5th & 6th grades in those days) starting in September 2017. As my mother use to say, “if it is meant to be, it is meant to be.”
MLAA: How would you describe Mountain Lakes then? Your supervisors?
BR: Mountain Lakes was beyond my expectations. I was converted from the city kid in the sharkskin suit to the new teacher looking like a Lands End catalog. Good bye sharkskin, hello tweed jackets and blue blazers. I immediately had the good fortune to be mentored and befriended by Jim Bagli, Doug Wilkins, George Wilson, Rich Morgan, Frank Bolton, Bill O’Brien and Bill Kogen. How could anyone not succeed with this group of mentors? My first principal tragically had a terrible car accident during the first month of school and then Jim Bagli became my principal. Before I knew it, I was coaching freshman football with Rich Morgan, and freshman basketball with George Wilson. All this by my second year in ML. How lucky was I?
MLAA: What and where did you first teach in the district? How was your first class? Any memorable moments? Students?
BR: I taught math and science at Lake Drive and had the most amazing first year anyone could hope for. It was a wonderful experience. Every day was fun and there were so many great times. The students broke in the new teacher and helped establish my reputation. Chris Palazzi, Gary McWilliams, Dan Ferrante, Andy and Mike Stone, Tim Watts, Tom Shirvanian, Cathy Shea, Lisa Uhrig to name a few. There were so many more other boys and girls who made me a better teacher than I could ever hope to be! It was Camelot, Shangri-La, the BEST!
MLAA: What are some of the biggest changes in Mountain Lakes since you first entered the district?
BR: While some things have changed in Mountain Lakes, I feel most things are still very much the same. The kids are still great, the parents are still friendly and supportive, the district continues to excel as do the athletic teams, the Boro is still the same beautiful place is was back on my first ride down the Boulevard in 1970. What has changed is the pressure from the State and the many changes imposed on the teaching profession. I am not sure it is as much fun as it use to be. Too many regulations and mandates and less time to enjoy the day with our students.
MLAA: What was your greatest moment in teaching? Coaching? And why for both?
BR: Greatest moment in teaching? That is a hard one as there were so many throughout my career. Certainly my first year. I believe every teacher remembers the beginning of his or her teaching career. I think moving from Lake Drive (Grade 6) to Briarcliff was an important move in my career. At Briarcliff, I had the good fortune to work with so many outstanding teachers. I also got to reunite with my lifelong friend Jim Bagli. Being part of the HERD coaching staff when we first went 9-0 and then 11-0 will always be great memories, I also loved coaching hoops, particularly my outstanding JV teams who were so successful.
MLAA: What is it like to be able to watch your son coach the same football program you helped build?
BR: Watching my son Jeff coach is a joy. Knowing that he is a great coach is fantastic. I love watching the games. I often see Jeff running out to retrieve the kicking tee as a little boy. Time flies much too quickly. I never knew that he would grown up to be a HERD coach. I have to say; I loved every minute of watching both my sons, Jeff and Chris during their high school years in football, basketball and track & field. Great times, great memories.
MLAA: Similarly, how does it feel to have your grandkids attend the same school where you were Principal?
BR: I am thrilled to have two of my grandkids at the school, Wildwood, where I served as principal. Brady is now in first grade and Avery is in 3rd. I am very grateful that they will have the privilege of attending the Mountain Lakes schools. I love helping to drop them off or pick them up. It always brings a smile to my face. A Pop Pop dream comes true!
MLAA: What do you miss most about being in the classroom? On the court? On the field?
BR: A day does not go by that I do not miss my teaching, coaching or administrative years in ML. I was truly blessed with a wonderful and rewarding career. Who knew the kid from the corner of Rt. 1&9 in Elizabeth would one day become a principal in the best district in New Jersey?
MLAA: If you could go back in time for one day, to any point in your career, when would it be and why?
BR: Wow…back in time to one day in my career. This is a hard one as there are so many super moments. I would love to have a rerun of my very first day as I arrived at Lake Drive for the start of an awesome professional career. I still remember being greeted by parents on the entrance stairs. What a day!
MLAA: How does teaching college students compare to teaching elementary and high school students?
BR: Teaching at William Paterson University is very enjoyable. It is definitely different than elementary, middle school or HS. Right now, I have three positions at WPU. I am an adjunct professor for the Educational Leadership and Professional Studies Department teaching courses in school law and the art of the principalship. At WPU, I only teach teachers who are studying to become school administrators (i.e. supervisors, assistant principals or principals). I also serve as a Field Experience Supervisor for 4-6 teachers each year during their two year Masters program which includes overseeing all the requirements for their 39 credit course of study. Lastly, I am now working in the fourth year of a five-year Federal grant (called Leaders As Learners) in the Paterson School District three days per week at School 2, School 9 and the New Roberto Clemente Middle School. In this grant, I am a Leader In Residence for the principals at each school. This is basically a coach or mentor position to enhance and support school leadership in Paterson. As you can tell, I did not actually retire, just sort of reinvented myself.
MLAA: Going forward, what is next for Bob Reid?
BR: Going forward…I plan to continue teaching and serving as a field experience supervisor for several more years and the Federal grant that will conclude at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. I subscribe to Tony Bennett’s philosophy. When asked on his 85th birthday, Mr. Bennett was asked if he planned on retiring…he replied, “Retire to what?” That works for me!
MLAA: How do you spend your ideal day/night?
BR: An ideal day is anytime spent with family. Lots of fun with our grandkids. I also look forward to time alone with my wife. We will be married 46 years in June. We have been together since high school. Yup…high school sweethearts! I also like to read mystery novels and books on history. I read about six books during July and August and find it very relaxing.
MLAA: What is your secret to keeping your full head of hair throughout all these years?
BR: My hair…I have to thank my Dad’s genes for the hair. Unfortunately my sons both take after my father-in- law and they have inherited some serious receding hairline issues.
MLAA: Favorite movie? Music?
BR: My favorite music is definitely jazz. I have a very large collection of jazz CDs and weeks worth of non-stop jazz on my iTunes collection. My favorite movie would be Casablanca and the original Sean Connery James Bond movies.
MLAA: If you could invite 3 people to dinner, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would they be and why?
BR: 3 People to Dinner…Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart (my favorite actors), Christian McBride (a fantastic jazz bassist and a leader in music education).
Bob Reid has answered to many titles, whether it was Principal, Professor, Teacher, or Pop-Pop. However, there may be one word that embodies Bob Reid better than the rest: friend. Over the years, he has demonstrated steadfast loyalty to his work, family, and town. And if there is anything we know about Bob Reid, it’s that he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Thank you, Bob!