It was perhaps the most fitting send-off Destrehan High School principal Stephen Weber could ask for as he concluded his final address to a graduating senior class.
Weber, who is retiring after 11 years as DHS principal, traditionally concludes his Monday morning announcement broadcasts to the student body by holding up his Community Coffee cup as a toast, saying, “To you, Destrehan High School, make it a great day and week, or not — the choice is yours,” as he points to the camera.
He altered his delivery slightly at graduation, “To you, Destrehan High School Class of 2018, make it a great life, or not …” before the senior class belted out in unison, “the choice is yours.”
The energetic and personable Weber ends his run as principal of the school he graduated from in 1975, where he was part of the first freshman class to attend DHS at the school’s current location along Schexnaydre Lane.
He says he’s cherished the journey, but he has no second thoughts about the decision to step away.
“People asked me if I’m counting the days, and I haven’t been,” said Weber, who will officially hand the baton to current Harry Hurst Principal Jason Madere. “I think everything really sunk in for good at the time I made the decision, honestly. You’ve gotta know when you’re ready and I know I’m ready.”
Weber will be undergoing knee surgery this summer, representative of the aches and pains endured by a body he said spoke the loudest in favor of the decision to step away.
“I joke with everyone that the one word I know from the science classes I took way back when is the word corpuscle. And every corpuscle in my body says it’s time for me to go,” Weber said with a chuckle.
“My wife and I talked about it. There are other things I want to do … there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s time to make this transition.”
Though Weber’s time as principal began a little over a decade ago, his time as an educator at the school and in St. Charles Parish extends far beyond that time frame.
He coached multiple sports and taught at Hahnville starting in 1985. He also had tenures at Harry Hurst, Albert Cammon and R.J. Vial schools before landing back at his alma mater in the early 90s.
Weber didn’t expect to become an administrator at first. He loved coaching and expected to continue to do so, specifically in the dugout as he was a former baseball player.
“You know, I loved coaching,” said Weber, who was head baseball coach at both Hahnville and Destrehan before shifting career pursuits. “Those were phenomenal years for me. Thank God for my wife, Becky … I was passionate about it, but it put a lot of pressure on her, and she deserves all the credit in the world. She took care of our kids while I was doing what I loved.”
And it was, in fact, Weber’s children that provided the inspiration to go into school administration.
“A job opened up and my kids were going to school at the same time,” Weber said. “How lucky can you be to be able to go to work with your kids? I thought it was such a blessing.”
Weber is quick to credit many people for the success the school has had in his tenure there, primarily noting the school’s faculty and staff, from those who teach in the classroom to those who drive the buses to bring students to and from school.
“Your school is only as good as its faculty,” Weber said. “Our faculty is strong. I’m not smart enough to be able to run a school without great help … my assistant principals and counselors, our staff development coordinator, I can go on and on … St. Charles Parish supports teaching and learning and I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of this.”
He also credited former Destrehan principals like Chipper Simon, Lorel Gonzales and Frank Robicheaux with creating a culture of success before his arrival.
Weber holds his teachers in especially high regard.
“I tell teachers, I’ve worked jobs out in 100 degree heat, taking tar off of pipes, climbing these tall scaffolds when I’m afraid of heights … it’s all nothing compared to what teachers do. It’s the toughest job in the world,” Weber said. “You walk in a classroom for your first day of teaching, 30 adolescents who rely on you and look to you at the center of everything. You close that door and I promise you that’s a moment you never forget.
“Those people who work with our young people, they’re the real heroes.”
He said he’s proudest of the fact that Destrehan High School always had a sense of community and family among those who were a part of it.
“I really think that anyone, be it a parent, student or community member, would say our school treated them like a family member,” Weber said. “When you have 1,500 kids in your school, you can’t make everyone happy, but I think they would all say they felt heard.”
Once he’s rehabbed post-knee surgery, Weber plans to do some traveling and sight-seeing—preferably alongside his wife, Becky, who is principal of Norco Elementary School.
“She’s not retiring, but eventually if I can convince her, I’d love to travel overseas,” Weber said. “I love history and I’d love to visit so many places.”
He also plans to start a lawn-mowing business, as that’s an activity that he says allows him to de-stress. Weber has a name picked out as well: Lawn and Order. And he wants to help his sister Alison and nephew, Sam, as he rehabs after suffering a serious neck injury resulting from a 2016 accident.
In one way, Weber will also return to his roots — he plans to help his son Renny coach baseball. Renny is the head coach at St. James High School.
“I ask him, ‘Are you sure about this?’” Weber quipped. “He says he could use the help and you always miss coaching. As long as I don’t aggravate him too much.”
He does believe wholeheartedly the school will be in great hands with Madere, who Weber coached in Madere’s prep days and who served as an assistant principal under Weber.
“He’ll come with a lot of energy and he loves Destrehan High,” Weber said. “I think it’s a special place that I know will become even better with Jason taking over.”