The large gym bustles with tired anticipation. By the end of the second day of school everyone is exhausted but with the excitement of starting a new school year.
Ann Richards students are used to unexplained assemblies in the large gym. It is part of the excitement of going to ARS: you never really know what to expect. However, this assembly, held on September 22, 2017, was different. Ms. Jeanne Goka-Dubose, Principal of the Ann Richards School for ten years, announced her retirement.
“Ms. [Kristina] Waugh is going to be the interim principal,” Goka said about the current Vice Principal of Ann Richards. “And you know that she is going to take care of you, keep up the traditions and continue to make this school be even better and more famous as one of the best public schools in the nation.”
Goka made the announcement at the end of a speech about moving from California to Texas as a Japanese-American teenger to face racism. Goka told the school of how her mother battled racism in the community through piano lessons and New Year’s parties with Japanese food. It introduced the idea of change, and how people confront change.
“My mom – instead of getting angry or giving up – found a way to get a neighborhood of racists to accept us,” Goka said. “[My mom] opened their eyes that it should never be about your skin color or the way you look. Instead, it’s about who you are as a person.”
The whole gym whispered. The seniors have grown under Goka’s influence for six years; and for everyone in the gym, her leadership as principal is all they have ever known at this school.
“This could have been an ordinary school,” Ms. Kristina Waugh said. “But instead Ms. Goka brought the magic. Ms. Goka is passionate about this school and believed there should be a place, a place for girls to be leaders, practice wellness, serve others, solve problems and live sisterhood. She believed so deeply in these things that it became a reality and now we have a school where dreams come true.”
Teachers and staff usually stand in the corner during assemblies. However, this time, they stood in a row behind Goka and Waugh, facing all of the students sitting in the bleachers.
“It’s sad because she’s the only principal this school has ever had,” Amina Serffrobetr (8) said.
Seniors were given the news in a separate assembly a few minutes beforehand. They were given a special responsibility to lead the school as it transitioned from leader to leader. The class has gone through their middle and high school careers with Goka as their leader, and this handoff during senior year is quite an addition to the typical senior changes.
“I will always be grateful for when she came to my elementary school and convinced me to come here,” Willow Dalehite (12) said. “She has really done all of the students here a great service, and I thank her for all of what she did, even the things I know nothing about.”