Hyde leaves Saratoga with unforgettable legacy
She is the longest serving figure on campus. She refuses to give her age, saying only, “I’m a thousand.” She is assistant principal Mrs. Karen Hyde, who, after 36 years of serving the school and the district, will be leaving the school with perhaps the greatest legacy of anyone ever associated with Saratoga High School.
Most everyone knows her, but few know her history.
She arrived to Saratoga in her early 20s, a UC Davis graduate and a genuine baby boomer. It was the fall of 1976, and she had just finished teaching public health and science at Los Gatos and Pacific Oak High School. It may be hard to believe, but Mrs. Hyde accepted her job at Saratoga with reluctance.
“[Former Assistant Principal Gerald Zapelli] is a real goof,” Hyde said in her raspy, energetic voice. “Jerry lived here. He kept trying to recruit me even when I was at Los Gatos. He would call me over. I was like, I’m in heaven, why would I leave Los Gatos. This is all his fault. It is Jerry Zapelli’s fault.”
At Saratoga, Hyde taught science, public health, special education and cheerleading.
After Zapelli’s death in 1976, she was promoted to assistant principal. She was a rather unorthodox assistant principal, often going to houses and talking to mothers when their children misbehaved. Hyde agrees that she almost always takes the students’ side. When a student approaches her with a project idea, she often becomes a part of the project herself. When a student gets in trouble, she tries to help the offender while also administering the rules.
“I like kids, why would you be a teacher if you don’t?” she said.
Even so, being an assistant principal responsible for disciplinary action was “like getting your teeth drilled.” In her very first incident, a student assaulted a teacher and Hyde was forced to administer an expulsion.
“The police took the kid,” she said. “I went to his house to talk to his mother... We, the Hydes, are of the ilk that if you do something, you do it 100 percent. [My approach is] we are the example, not the exception... never ask for an exception. Just work your tail off.”
‘Twas a time before Homecoming
“Los Gatos was always the more fun school, even then,” said Hyde, whose arrival at SHS helped create Homecoming and other now common-place festivities. “The teachers [here] were like ‘what are you doing? A special schedule for Homecoming?’”
Under Hyde’s directions, students built floats and carried them to Los Gatos, where they would run around the field and make a mess. One time, a float fell off a car on Highway 9.
“It was way too much,” she said. “I never thought through anything.”
She has lived through the highs and lows of the school, dealing with everything an administrator could encounter, from organizing broom hockey games to dealing with drug busts.
In the late 1980s, the superintendent enrolled an undercover policeman to blend in with the students; he was in his 20s but looked 15. A massive drug bust among the senior class followed.
“It was awful,” Hyde said. “It was the low of my career. Nobody on campus knew [about the undercover cop].”
But there were less awful stories, ones that Hyde tells with a smile.
One day, a student came in with his hands handcuffed behind his back; his friend, most likely an underclassman according to Hyde, had done it and had lost the key.
“[He was like] handcuffs have keys?” Hyde rolls her eyes. “Morons!”
Hyde said to the friend who handcuffed the student, “If he needs to go to the bathroom, you’re helping him.” Later, the office had to call the police to unlock the handcuffs.
Another less amusing situation involved alcohol. It was the ‘80s and on the last day of school, and a senior, Dennis, made the “brilliant move” of going out to drink. Hyde made him sit on a chair in the office and called his parents. Hyde recalled the events that followed.
In a fit of rage, Dennis’s mom walked into the office. She looked her son in the eye, then turned to Hyde. The mom spoke out of her teeth, slowly, emphasizing every word: “You … just … let … him … sit.”
By that time everyone had already left for summer. But his mom wasn’t done. She said to Dennis, “Give me your keys.” Dennis whimpered, “But!” He was silenced by a glare. He handed his keys over to his mom, who promptly stormed out of the room. Dennis walked home.
“His father owned the local Budweiser [distributor],”Hyde said with an amused smile.
In the 1990s, alumni Philip Sung and Kalvin Wang approached Hyde with the plan to create a school-centered website called saratogahigh.com. It was a huge project; they had to manually hand out passwords to each Saratoga High student and parent.
Hyde, as much a part of the project as the students themselves, worked with these students to see that their goal would be accomplished. “We lived in the office that summer,” said Hyde, never one to discourage a dream.
All that Hyde has done for and with her students will not be forgotten after she retires at the end of this year. The accomplishments and events she introduced will forever be a large part of Saratoga culture. Hyde’s son, senior Mac Hyde, will also graduate this year.
“I’m not leaving, I’m just graduating,” she said.
Hyde plans to go into college counseling for athletes, combining her love of kids with her love for athletics. It will be a small non-profit affair.
But next year, there will be no Hyde on campus, something the school has not seen since 36 years ago when she walked onto campus with a force of personality so great, it changed lives.
She is asked on her life’s philosophy.
She thinks, then answers with a question.
“Is there ever a time where you stop and say to yourself, ‘I’m having the time of my life’?”
May 31: First Period Final
June 3: Senior Awards Night
June 3: Second and Third Period Final
June 4: Fourth and Fifth Period Final
June 5: Sixth and Seventh Period Final
- Boys' tennis vs. Serra in CCS semis; girls' softball plays Milpitas for league championship; girls' lacrosse @ Paly at 7 in SCVAL playoffs.
- Boys' Tennis stunned No. 2 ranked Monta Vista 11-4 on Monday in CCS.
- Varsity baseball starts a best of 3 series with Wilcox for the League Championship. Today's game is @ Wilcox 3:30
- The swim team is competing at League Finals today at Palo Alto.
- The baseball team beat Palo Alto 4-3 on May 2, sweeping the season series against the traditional powerhouse. Kyle Dozier pitched 6 innings.