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Tribute To Bob O'Connor, A Long-Time Park City School District Leader


Former Park City Principal Bob O’Connor passed away from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) complications on January 14.

Bob O’Connor moved to the Park City High School principal position in June of 2012. Before this assignment, he had been principal of Treasure Mountain Junior High School. However, during his tenure, the school had evolved from a middle school to an International Baccalaureate School. Then with the community insisting 9th-grade move to Treasure, it became a Junior High School. In all, he spent 25 years in the school district as a teacher and administrator.

Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews worked with him for 10 years at the Treasure Mountain school before taking on her role as head of the UEA. 
She said it was a special time because much of the faculty and administration were cohesive and really loved one another. She said he cared about kids and teachers. Wearing a too-small t-shirt proclaiming 100% literacy, Matthews said, was an example of how devoted he was to student success.

“Someone had given him a T-shirt that was way too small that said 100% proficient. Of course, we were completely mocking him, but he just wore that thing with pride, and it was so cute when they were giving toasts and things and he started talking about his T-shirt and how proud he was about this 100% proficiency and you know he was going on and on about it at party. And his mom was there helping him celebrate and he said look mom you know we got 100% proficient!”

Park City Education Foundation Director of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Billow said while her son was in high school, she got to know O’Connor as someone who advocated for marginalized kids. In December of 2013, when the 9th circuit court in Denver struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, the GSA club kids found themselves part of the national conversation. Billow said when the Governor visited Park City High School to give an AP award, O’Connor wore a GSA armband in solidarity with the kids from the club.

"And the GSA had the arm bands and they asked him to wear one. And he did. And I think the other thing is he always acted like what he did wasn't such a giant big deal. He really did walk softly and carry a big stick. He just was a huge presence and he didn’t say a lot.  And he didn't need to but wearing the armband with the governor… and the kids were polite, no one was unruly, but they were wearing their arm bands and Bob did it too. It showed the kids that the top leader at their school supported them even though at that time, of course the governor was, I mean his tune has changed lot about LGBTQ, but at that time he was, you know, we are going to defend this lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Susie Graves-Henneman has taught in the Park City School District for 29 years. She first met O’Connor when he became principal at Treasure Mountain in 2002. She said he brought out the best in her.

“That just went in every aspect of my relationship with Bob as being a teacher when he was my principle. He always showed humor, empathy, the importance of lasting friendship. But with his professionalism it was Bob asked, we did. There was just so much respect.”

Graves-Henneman shared her perspective of how O’Connor touched the lives of thousands of students beginning in Middle School and then later in the High School when he became principal.

“The kids had a respect for him. They knew not to cross a line, but they could also just joke and have so much fun with him. And so that was such an honorable characteristic as a leader.”

In January of 2018, shortly after being diagnosed with ALS, O’Connor announced his decision to resign as principal of Park City High School.
A linkto Park City High School Principal Bob O’Connor’s obituary can be found here

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