BRATTLEBORO -- Roy Lidie, the Science Assistant at Brattleboro Union High School, has hung up his lab coat for the last time. Hired 14 years ago after a career in the military to clean up and organize the chemicals in the stockroom and help BUHS science teachers prepare labs, Lidie found that the job was more complex and more rewarding than he had anticipated.
"I am the science department logistician," he said in an interview shortly before school ended. "I take care of everything behind the scenes. I attempt to be proactive not reactive. What drives me is the idea when the teacher needs something, I have it, I can get it to them, and they can continue marching on. I take care of the chemical stockroom, I take care of our budget -- I do the ordering and requisitioning."
But all that logistical work was just the beginning. Lidie also engaged with students.
"I sub at times or cover a class, and I provide a cooling-off place for students," he said. "If they need to be out of the classroom, this is a good place for them."
The fact that he was not a teacher allowed students to confide in him.
"They didn’t think, Well, he’s going to grade my papers, he’s going to talk to my parents -- I was a safe person," Lidie explained. "The kids realized very soon after they met me that I can be a joker, a goof-off. They realize that they never know just what I’m going to do.
Students responded to his kind presence.
"I think the high point was in 2005, when they dedicated a yearbook to me," he recalled. "They asked me to speak at Baccalaureate that year. One of the things I said to them was that all the ribbons I wear on my uniform jacket don’t mean as much to me as this yearbook does, and I’ll never forget that."
He found that working with teachers could be at least as challenging as interacting with students.
"The biggest challenge I have is trying to recognize that the teachers I support are not soldiers," he commented. "They aren’t all uniform, they don’t follow orders, they don’t do the things I was used to doing in the Army -- they’re all individuals. They would do things that would cause me any amount of consternation in trying to keep this place operating. The term for those who followed my lead was ‘Royscouts.’"
Lidie, who owns three motorcycles (a 2007 Triumph Bonneville -- a "modern retro," and two 750 Hondas) said that he was looking forward to having more time to ride.
"I’m probably going to do a lot more motorcycling," he said. "I’ve got some trips planned out in the Far West -- the Four Corners, the Road to the Sun in Idaho -- those are the kinds of things that call to me.
"In 2005 I did something called the Four Corners of the United States," he continued. "It’s a documented ride from Madawaska, Maine, to Key West, Florida, to San Ysidro, California, and Blaine, Washington. You had 21 days to do it in; I got to the fourth quarter in 13 days and back to Vermont on the 19th day. I got a fancy pen."
He recalled the first day he reported for work at BUHS, after working briefly in another high school.
"As soon as I walked in the school, and it was in the summer, there was a noticeably different atmosphere," he recalled. "Just the way people were -- the staff and faculty at this school treated me in a way that made me proud to work here. And when I talked to anybody on my off time, I sang the praises of Brattleboro Union High School and the people who worked here. And the parents I’ve met, the ones I’ve had an opportunity to meet -- they were always nice to me, and when I was introduced to them by their children, they said how much they appreciated me.
"The Science Department always treated me as a full member of the department, as a colleague," he concluded. "Even though I was a para, I was treated with a respect that surprised me at times. My opinion counted for something."
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at BUHS.