Longtime principal set to retire
Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Thomas McLemore has had a hand in educating a generation — and more, in some cases — of Suffolk Public Schools students.
The longtime principal of Nansemond River High School is retiring in June, after 17 years at the helm of the high school that serves North Suffolk.
Prior to that, McLemore was principal at John F. Kennedy Middle School for three years and assistant principal at several Suffolk schools.
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John Yeates Middle School Principal Dan O’Leary will take over as Nansemond River’s new principal effective July 1.
“I’ve had kids here whose parents I taught at John Yeates,” said McLemore, who taught social studies there for six years. “I’ve also had opportunities to hire former students, including a former valedictorian who now teaches English here at Nansemond River.
“There is a great satisfaction in seeing our former kids go on to be good, successful people who give back to their communities,” he said. “There is nothing more rewarding for any educator.”
Retirement wasn’t an easy decision, said McLemore.
“I love what I do and it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful 17 years … and it’s extremely rewarding to feel like you have made a difference.”
Throughout his career, McLemore said he has focused on making new opportunities and experiences available to all students.
The community has always been supportive of Nansemond River, McLemore said.
Susan Chaney, bookkeeper at Nansemond River since 2001, said McLemore’s quiet leadership style will be missed.
“He shows the same compassion and fairness to everyone — students, parents and employees,” said Chaney. He also makes a point to tell employees when they are doing their jobs well, she added.
“He is a good leader.”
McLemore and his wife, Jane, were vacationing in Nags Head, N.C., in July 1984 when they got called for job interviews, he said. The couple met former School Board member Billy Whitley — who was principal of John Yeates High School at the time — outside the Camden County Courthouse to interview for teaching positions, McLemore said.
Whitley hired them both on the spot, McLemore said. His wife, Jane, taught English until her retirement from Nansemond River three years ago.
Although he plans to spend more time with his family, McLemore plans to continue working to help kids.