Interview with Pat Palan, Vice Principal of Northeast Middle School

Pat Palan, white beard and glasses, talking to students

How long have you been a VP at NEMS?

I’ve been Assistant Principal for one year and a few months prior to that I worked at Seward Montessori then Edison High School then Roosevelt for 5 years. Before that I worked as a psycho-therapist and mental health manager for an HMO prior to that I taught in an alternative high school, The City, Inc., and was director of their girls’ group home.

What do you like about NEMS?

I have a number of things I feel really good about, especially working with Dr. Udupa. I think she’s a fantastic principal. I would say the best boss I’ve ever had and I’ve had some darned good ones. Also I’m just impressed day to day by various kids, various little things that they do whether they are learning something, overcoming something, sharing something – I just enjoy lots of things about being with students and with their families and parents. It’s a privilege to work with these kids.

Why did you decide to go into education?

I decided to go into education because I was a child of the 60s and wanted to do good. Also I enjoy learning and working with teachers and students and thought a school would be a great place to work and continued to learn and that’s been true for me all the time I was either as a teacher or an administrator.

You are a NE resident too. Why did you decide to live in the neighborhood?

I was a NE resident and decided to move into the neighborhood because I was looking for an opportunity to move back where I was raised.  My mother lived in NE until she passed away about 4 years ago. Two of my siblings still live in the house we were raised in.

Tell me a Little About Yourself

I have been married for 38 years. My wife just retired as a teacher in the St., Paul Public Schools. We have two children - a daughter 31 [who is a] PhD candidate in school psychology at the U of M who is also working as a BPA at Emerson Spanish Immersion in the Pre-K program there. My son is 28 and he and his wife live in Rochester. He works in for a medical company. They have a one year old child - actually 15 months. That makes me a grandpa.

What are some of the things you like to do in your spare time?

My hobbies: walking, traveling, and working very part time at Regions Hospital in the ER. I tease with my wife that’s my hobby and I really do enjoy it – it’s a great place to work; much different than teaching, so it does take my mind off teaching…or being an administrator and also meets a number of my basic needs.

Why do you think parents send their kids to NEMS?

There’s a variety of reasons that parents have told me that they’ve sent their kids here but mostly it’s in hopes in having their kids in a place that they trust the adults will be caring about their kids and teaching them useful things.

What is your day like? How long?

What’s my day like? 10 – 11 hour day(s); sometimes it goes a lot longer when Dr. Udupa and I have evening meetings, when it can stretch to many more hours.

Are there any special projects or goals you are working on this school year?

I’m working with a group to improve climate here – we made some changes from last year and I’m looking forward to see how they go. I’m also really pleased with a program that provides very specific, very targeted academic support to a group of students who’ve been identified as having some definite needs in that regard.

What are ways the neighborhood could get more involved in NEMS or provide assistance in some way?

Volunteering especially to help students - maybe tutoring. Lots of neighborhood people do become involved in fundraising, the play, and sports and after school activities.