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Grady students suddenly are no longer wrong

Dr. Propst, Assistant Principal at Grady High School retired July 31st.

Dr. Propst, Assistant Principal at Grady High School retired July 31st.

Dr. Propst, Assistant Principal at Grady High School retired July 31st.

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Students will miss hearing long-time Assistant Principal Dr. David Lee Propst’s catchphrase, “you are wrong,” as he retired from Grady on July 31. Dr. Propst will be the new principal of a 1,400-student school, A’Takamul International School, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, for one year.

“It will be a great learning experience to see another educational standard,” Dr. Propst said. “I’m going abroad to learn and bring it back home.”

Students at A’Takamul International School are separated by floor based on their gender and attend school Sunday through Thursday. Full of aristocratic students from across the Middle East, the international school offers extensive travel opportunities and classes to learn French, English, Spanish and Arabic.

“The biggest challenge [for Dr. Propst] will be getting used to the different culture, new norms, and customs that he will have to learn and seeing what has to be tweaked,” principal Dr. Betsy Bockman said. “Being responsible for everything is a big change.”

Dr. Propst’s new boss found him through LinkedIn, called and scheduled an interview via Facetime. Dr. Propst has worked as an assistant principal since 2001 and wants to take the next step and be a principal, while serving as a bridge between Grady and Kuwait.

“I am going to another country, another culture; I have to convince and lead them towards my vision. That is where you learn leadership. It is exciting,” Dr. Propst said. “I want to make them excited about education.”

Dr. Propst may be leaving Grady but his impact won’t. Dr. Propst founded the M.I.N.D. Educational Foundation (Mastering Interventions for Necessary Development). According to their website, “the M.I.N.D. Educational Foundation Movement is to embrace a Proactive, instead of a Reactive approach towards substance abuse and mental illness.”

“The goal, in order to help the students, is to educate the parents when their child have suicidal tendencies or anything of that nature,” Dr. Propst said, regarding the his foundation.

In January 2018, Grady lost a student to suicide, pushing the foundation  into full throttle. Dr. Propst wanted to ensure that what happened in January never happens again. He filed the 501(c)(3) to make his non-profit official and more sponsors were getting on board.

“After losing Theo is January, I went and completed everything for the foundation. It tore me up because I saw him before and did not think anything suspicious,” Dr.Propst said. “I wish I could have done something.”

Ms. Johnson, a social worker at Grady, is on the board with Propst’s foundation. She conducts the youth mental health “first aid” training.  

“As educators, all we think about is reading, writing and arithmetic. We don’t think about the whole social and emotional aspect of it,” Dr. Propst said. “ Children today are dealing with so much more than I was dealing with when I was growing up, like social media and other things that affect what kids,” Dr. Propst said.

The foundation is also something Propst believes his late wife would been proud of.

Dr. Propst was born in Baltimore, but he attended four high schools since his father was a soldier in the army.

“I played football, track and field, baseball, swimming and wrestling,” Dr. Propst said. “It was easy changing sports as I switched high schools.”

Before receiving his doctorate in education at Clarke Atlanta University at age 20, Dr. Propst traveled the world as a medical service corp officer in the army for three years.

While in the army, he met his future wife, a high school spanish teacher, at Fort Benning in a library as she helped him with his Masters work.

“I didn’t want to ruin her career so I got out and I changed my career to education,” Dr. Propst said. “I’ve never looked back.”

Dr. Propst went into education as a physical education teacher, coaching football and track and field. Changing Georgia counties a handful of times, he ended up at Grady in 2008 under Dr. Vincent Murray.

Dr. Propst affected the lives of many students as a trusted adult they could rely on. Sophomore Lucia Fernandez shed light on the relationship she had with Dr. Propst.

“Dr. Propst was always very responsive and a good shoulder to lean on. Whenever I had a problem, I could go to him,” Fernandez said. “We are losing a wonderful role model and a wise soul to talk to.”

Fellow staff member, Spanish teacher Ms. Liliana Ortegon is bittersweet over the departure of Propst.

“I am happy for him because I know he will be in a great place, and he will impact others the same way he did here,” Ortegon said. “But it’s sad because it is one of my colleagues leaving.”

To Senior Caleb Maloof, Dr. Propst was one of the main people keeping the school in order and students out of trouble. Maloof described him as “very strict” but explained how he was able to create a bond with every student.

“Dr. Propst was very crazy and loud at 8:20 in the morning, screaming ‘You are wrong!’,” Maloof said. “He was very passionate about his job and cared about every student at Grady and wanted the best for them.”

After Dr. Propst’s wife passed away, he leaned on the Grady community for support. Every time he leaves school, it is hard for him.  

“He was out last year for months from knee surgery, and it was really hard for him to be away from school,” Dr. Bockman said.

Her presence remains with him, pushing for him to be his best self.

“He always said he still felt her presence and her push for him to be dedicated,” Dr. Bockman said. “We went to breakfast once, the assistant principals and me. He believes his wife would be very proud of this risk and leap.”

As a huge presence at Grady, Dr. Propst impacted many students enjoyed himself while doing so.

“To be able to work with such a dynamic staff, to be able to open the door in the morning and see them come through at 7:45, to walk away from that, it’s difficult,” Dr. Propst said. “That was the light of my day. When I get up in the morning, I am excited about coming to work. That’s why I have always been the first one in the school and the last one out.”


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2 Responses to “Grady students suddenly are no longer wrong”

  1. Kathleen Dumitrescu on August 4th, 2018 12:16 am

    Great story about Dr. Probst with an excellent lead in line.

    I wish him good luck. Those students will never know what hit them.

  2. Eleanor Hambrick on August 6th, 2018 9:45 pm

    Man ! I love this man as a principle !!!! He yelled you are wrong over a million times at Maynard Jackson aka Southside ! He yelled it so much that we (ms.mingo) had to put him in one of our art performance dance . It was hilarious! He will truly be missed! It’s hard to find a awesome person like this man to be a leader over so many students

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Grady students suddenly are no longer wrong