School remembers beloved principal
Published 9:29 pm Monday, April 27, 2015
Booker T. Washington Elementary School dedicated a tree on Friday in memory of a former principal who died this year.
The Japanese maple will remind current and future students, faculty and staff of Patricia Montgomery’s lasting influence at the school, according to current principal David Reitz.
Montgomery was well known and respected in Suffolk Public Schools and in the community at large. She died Feb. 23.
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According to her obituary, during a career in education spanning 35 years, she was principal at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary when it opened in 1998, before moving across to open the newly renovated Booker T. Washington the following year.
She retired from Booker T. Washington in 2010.
“Her focus was always on her students,” Reitz said, adding he has sought to carry on that legacy.
“Following in her footsteps,” was how Reitz put it.
“We really want to make sure our focus is our kids and how much they gain,” Reitz said.
Friday’s Mrs. Montgomery’s Day of Remembrance began in the school auditorium. Several speakers recognized guests and Montgomery’s family, according to Reitz, including husband Dennis Montgomery, their two children and his sister and mother.
Next came a performance by chorus students, and former colleagues of Montgomery’s “said a few words about her and their memories of her.”
Before the gathering moved outside for the tree dedication — fittingly, on Arbor Day —everyone stood up and did The Electric Slide, a dance made famous by the Marcia Griffith’s song “Electric Boogie,” and one that Montgomery was known for being fond of.
The remembrance event also introduced a scholarship in Patricia Montgomery’s memory. It will be awarded to Suffolk public high school graduates who attended Booker T. Washington, according to Reitz.
“They will have to write an essay on how Booker T. Washington (Elementary School) influenced them or had an impact on their life,” he said.
Reitz said Friday’s event raised more than $3,700 for the scholarship — including a $3,000 donation by Dennis Montgomery.
“That’s going to keep it going for many years,” Reitz said.
Reitz led the tree dedication at the front of the school building. Montgomery was a keen gardener, he said, “so we thought it was a very fitting tribute.”
“I dedicated it in her name,” Reitz said. “It was a really nice tribute to her legacy.”
A committee was formed at the school to plan and organize the day of remembrance.
“It was a celebration of her memory,” Reitz said. “It was a beautiful day, and it was an honor to be able to dedicate this tree to someone who had such a big impact on the students and staff.
“Our fifth-graders currently here are the last class that knew her, so it was nice for them.”