Dan Zang was long looking forward to this school year, when all four of his children would be students at Rockford High School, where he is principal. That meant his two sets of twins — sophomores Aimee and Kate, and seniors Luke and Drew – would always be nearby, for an office pop-in or hallway smile.
“I get my dad-hugs in the work day,” Zang said on a Tuesday in mid-March, with all four kids crammed into his office. “It’s nice to see my kids. It’s a real perk for me on those really hard days to get those hugs and high-fives.”
Now, of course, they are even more together, in the same house. Since the statewide school buildings closure just three days after that office meet-up, their one year of in-school togetherness has become more intimate than they ever could have imagined.
“We have had more meals together as a family and have enjoyed many activities that our schedules may not have allowed in the past,” Zang said after the shutdown. “Our family dog, Blue, has greatly enjoyed the family time as well.”
While looking on the bright side of things, Zang, in his 14th year as principal, acknowledges the heartbreak and disappointment for students, especially seniors. Still, he and his children had six months of a unique and memorable family experience before school doors shut. Aimee and Kate were at the Rockford Freshman Center last year (where mom Sara is a secretary), so this was the only time they were all in the same building with dad.
More Pros than Cons
Casually sitting around in Zang’s office, his children shared the pluses – and a couple minor minuses — of going to a school where their father runs the show. Sure, they’re always expected to be on their best behavior, but they’d do that anyway, they say.
‘If I’m having a bad day, he’s always here to help me’— Kate Zang on her father, principal Dan zang
“I think it’s great,” piped up Aimee, Kate’s identical twin and like her a track standout. She recalled coming into the office one day with a sore knee and putting an ice pack on it. “It’s nice because I know the staff members here and they’re all so nice. They always offer help.”
Same for Kate. “If I’m having a bad day, he’s always here to help me,” she said. Added bonus: “It’s very nice because he has a lot of snacks” stored in the cupboard. “I can raid his snack stash.”
Luke and Drew, fraternal twins, admit that sometimes friends would ask them to pass along complaints and suggestions to their dad, but mostly of the kidding kind. Luke: “They’ll be like, ‘Hey Luke, can you make your dad give us a snow day?’” Drew: “People will go, ‘You must get all A’s because your dad’s the principal.’”
But for them as for the girls, having a dad for a principal has been a winner.
“I’ll stop and give him a hug” in the hallway, Drew confided. “I don’t care if other people see it.”
It’s a blessing that goes both ways, Zang said.
“As a dad, it’s been a joy to watch them grow up as high school students,” he said. “It’s been just a joy to watch them flourish here. They’re finding their own path.”