Dr. Darrell Echols reflects on time as Metea Valley principal

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“I think this is a special place for a number of reasons,” said Dr. Darrell Echols. “Mr. Jim Schmid, who opened the building back in 2009, did a super job of hiring energetic staff members that care about kids and are super kind. And so I’ve tried to enhance that over time.”

Dr. Darrell Echols will retire from his role as principal of Metea Valley High School after nine years in the office, capping off over three decades in the world of education. Echols announced his decision earlier this academic year.

Show business to teaching

At the start of his career, Echols wasn’t considering a career in education. He was wrapped up in the world of show business, making appearances on SNL and The Cosby Show.

Echols thought his charisma in the entertainment industry could translate well to a full-time gig in the classroom.  

“I was a substitute teacher back in 1990, and I was doing some acting work at that particular time and some voiceovers,” said Echols. “The next thing I knew, I just really connected with kids and they started offering me coaching positions and teaching positions. So I had to go back to school at Northeastern to get my teaching license. I started teaching after that and I never looked back.”

Transition to Metea Valley

Echols spent time as dean of students at Waubonsie Vally High School and principal of Hill Middle School before becoming Metea Valley’s principal in 2014. After almost a decade at the helm, Echols will miss many things about leading the Mustangs.

“Definitely the day-to-day communications with teachers and students, pep rallies, football games, soccer games and all that kind of stuff is the best part of being at a school like this,” said Echols. “We really enjoy each other’s company, and the school spirit has been terrific over the years.”

Metea Valley students hosted a pep rally last Friday and the retiring principal got to participate in the action.

COVID’s impact on Metea Valley

Echols said guiding Metea Valley through the COVID-19 pandemic was his “greatest test.”

“We were doing things we’d never done before,” said Echols. “It was building the plane as we were flying in it. But we had terrific resolve from our staff and from our students and tremendous cooperation with our parents and community.”

Looking back at his years at Metea Valley, Echols said one of his fondest memories was the return to in-person graduation in 2021. 

“When we were on the football field, bringing the kids back and being together for a graduation was fantastic,” said Echols.

New principal at Metea Valley

Dan DeBruycker will take over as principal at Metea Valley. The athletic director turned assistant principal said he’s got “big shoes to fill,” but is looking forward to taking the reins next academic year.

“I think over the summer it’ll give me a bit more time to relax after graduation and prepare for next year,” said DeBruycker. “But (I’m) beyond excited. “Wonderful school, wonderful students, staff, and community, and (I’m) looking forward to serving in that role.”

Future plans for Echols

Retirement won’t slow down Echols. He loves spending time at the golf course but Echols wants to continue working in some capacity.

“I got to keep busy, so I’ll keep doing something,” said Echols. “I’m just not sure what that’s going to be yet.”

Though he’ll miss walking the halls of Metea Valley, Echols didn’t rule out returning to campus from time to time to give his signature Mustang signoff.

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