Principal’s legacy lives on

Published 9:08 pm Thursday, April 30, 2015

We hear a lot — especially around budget time — about how important teachers are in the lives of schoolchildren.

School principals, however, get less lip service but are responsible for dozens of staff, hundreds of students and an entire building.

You’d be hard pressed to find an adult without fond memories of at least one teacher, if not several, from their school days. I would argue the same is true of former students and their principals (although, depending on how frequently certain students met the principal and under what circumstances, they might have less fond memories than others).

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Recently, Booker T. Washington Elementary School honored one of its former principals, Patricia Montgomery, who retired in 2010 and died this February.

“Her focus was always on her students,” current principal David Reitz told reporter Matthew Ward this week.

The school had a day of remembrance last week, during which a student choral performance, memories from colleagues and the Electric Slide — a dance Montgomery was fond of — took place.

A Japanese maple also was planted outside during the ceremony, which was fittingly held on Arbor Day. Montgomery’s husband, their children and his sister and mother were in attendance.

The fifth-grade students currently at the school are the last ones who knew Montgomery. The organizers did a nice thing putting together the event during a time when students who knew her would still be there. I’m certain it will stay with them for a very long time.

Montgomery’s legacy will continue to live on not only through the tree but also through a scholarship established in her memory, which will be awarded to Suffolk public high school graduates who attended Booker T. Washington in their younger days. Applicants for the scholarship will have to write an essay on how the school influenced them.

But the tree and even the scholarship will be dwarfed by the meaning of how Montgomery touched each and every student under her tutelage during a long career in education. Like all educators, her legacy lives long after her earthly body is gone.