Saturday, August 29, 2015

From 9-year-old, a poignant farewell to school superintendent

A Chadds Ford Elementary student was recognized at the Unionville Chadds Ford School Board meeting tonight for his efforts to help less-fortunate children, but it was his remarks about the outgoing superintendent that stole the stage from the adults.

From 9-year-old, a poignant farewell to school superintendent

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Sharon Parker makes the rounds at a community breakfast at the high school.
Sharon Parker makes the rounds at a community breakfast at the high school.

A Chadds Ford Elementary student was lauded at the Unionville Chadds Ford School Board meeting tonight for his efforts to help less-fortunate children, but it was his remarks about the outgoing superintendent that stole the stage from the adults.

The school board meeting at Chadds Ford Elementary was more crowded than usual because the board had scheduled an announcement to approve Superintendent Sharon Parker's retirement and announce her replacement. In addition, the district's teachers remain without a contract, and many attended the meeting in matching navy school shirts.  

Addressing the packed gymnasium, 9-year-old Michael Walter-Dillon said that he had no idea he was going to be recognized - a surprise he said he wished his parents might have shared. His drive to get baseball equipment donated to children in countries like Nicaragua, where balls are fashioned from cardboard and bats from sticks, drew a standing ovation. But, as they say in baseball, he was just warming up, 

The board voted to approve a retirement date of Aug. 31 for Parker and announced that the district's director of secondary education, John Sanville, would succeed her. Showing his sense of humor, Sanville thanked the teachers' union rep "for bringing out a full crowd." Then it was time for public comment.

Several residents expressed their gratitude to Parker, citing her commitment to children and echoing the theme that Sanville would have "big shoes to fill." But Walter-Dillon gave an example that typified  Parker’s approach to her job and explained why she would be missed.

Walter-Dillon said he was in kindergarten when his school hosted a Dr. Seuss festival. He remembered seeing Parker wearing a big floppy hat and "a goofy skirt with lots of colors." She was sitting in a rocking chair making up stories with the children. "Everyone was laughing; you were laughing the loudest," he told Parker as the audience chuckled. Walter-Dillon said he had no idea that Parker was the new superintendent until he was introduced to her. He said he was pretty impressed that someone in her position would find the time to join the students -- a scenario that would be repeated countless times at myriad events during Parker's tenure.

Walter-Dillon said he understood that Parker wanted to spend time with her children and grandchildren, but if she gets bored, he hoped she won't "go back to work at another district,"

"I will be glad to hang out with you," he concluded as the audience rose to its feet once again.

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About this blog
Aubrey Whelan covers Chester County for the Inquirer. A native of a Philadelphia suburb so small it doesn't have a zip code, she grew up reading the Inquirer and was thrilled to take a job there in fall 2012. Previously, she covered crime, courts and D.C.'s Occupy movement for the Washington Examiner. Aubrey graduated from Penn State in 2011, where she worked for the award-winning campus newspaper and majored in journalism and French. Contact her at 215-495-5855 or awhelan@philly.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/aubreyjwhelan.

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