“It was just overwhelmingly beautiful. I was totally surprised,” Nancy Plumb, the retiring principal at Norwood Elementary, said on Monday after a surprise retirement party in the auditorium. Some teachers held back tears as Plumb walked in with a face of astonishment and gratitude. Students gave her a round of applause.
Plumb, after spending a few years with her own children began teaching as a half-day kindergarten teacher at Potowomut Elementary in September of 1989. After a year she moved to Lippitt and spent 14 years there before deciding to be a principal. She was named principal at Norwood ten years ago.
At Monday’s party, Plumb moved to sit with her husband Bill Plumb, daughter Melissa Kelly, mother in law Barbara Plumb and sister in law Pat Baetezel, when her father, Sanford Tanner also walked into the back of the auditorium. Father and daughter shared a hug before taking their seats.
A video, filmed by the teachers, showed students answering what a principal does and what retirement is. One student in the movie said, “who’s going to be the principal now?” and with a little pause the student beside them said, “how about me?”
It was said that principals are there to keep the kids in detention company; the principal is the boss of the whole school. Most kids thought retirement was the equivalent of being rich because you didn’t have to work anymore and it involved a lot of painting. After a recorded good-bye and good luck from the students the video ended with the words, “You have made a difference in all of our lives.”
Then each grade serenaded their favorite principal. The kindergarten sang ‘Skidamarink’ having a little choreography to point towards Plumb whenever they said, “miss you.”
The first grade, believing that Plumb is the “guiding light” of the school sang ‘This Little Light of Mine’ while some held light bulbs cutouts with a picture of their principal on them and lanterns.
The second grade recited an Irish Retirement blessing finishing by saying, “and may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.” At ‘heart’ all the students lifted up a color and decorated heart they handed to Plumb before taking their seats. Each student received a hug before they could sit down.
The third grade sang “A Whole New World” that was popularized in the Disney movie ‘Aladdin’. They changed princess to principal and carpet ride to sailing ride.
The fourth grade did a music medley with Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ and American Authors’ ‘Best Day of My Life,’ that student, Cameron Nadeau, had a solo for the first few lines.
The fifth grade created their own rendition of ‘This Land is Your Land’ and replaced the words with, “This School is Your School.” The students had large signs they held up that read, “this school is great because of you.”
Through the chorus of Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’, that the sixth graders performed, the back row held up 6 giant yellow smiley faces.
Teachers and parents alike recited their own lyrics to the tunes of popular jingles and children’s’ songs. Each of them showed the love the school had for their principal.
The students then gave Plumb a gift they had all been working on for about two weeks—an Adirondack chair painted with an undersea landscape. Every student in the school painted a part of the chair. Kim Markarian, the art teacher for Norwood, had had the students paint a bit during their classes, but also during Makarian’s lunch break so that the chair would be ready.
“It really was a labor of love,” she said.
Plumb was handed the microphone and through tears she addressed her school. She thanked them all for not only the party that day, but for every day before for making her time as principal memorable, for reminding her everyday she made the right choice becoming a principal.
Plumb said that in the wake of her retirement she hoped the kids, if they remembered anything from her, would remember to always work to the best of their ability and use kind and respectful words.
Robert Bushell, Director of Elementary Education, who will also be retiring in August of this year, said, “I have had the privilege to work with Nancy Plumb as both a teacher and a principal. The sign of a good principal to me is that I would want my own children to go to her school.”
Jean Hough, the secretary at Norwood was thanked by Plumb for all her support throughout the years.
The school then collectively got up to dance to “We are Family”, sang by Lisa Campagnone, a former teacher who is now at Aldrich Junior High. An immense conga line circled around the auditorium.
The students settled down again and wish Plumb a happy retirement one more time. As they left to gather their things for the end of the day Plumb hugged each and everyone as they exited the auditorium.
“The kids said it all,” Bill, Plumb’s husband said when asked about the event. “This was great there is nothing to be said about it.”
“She is just so loved here,” Karen Murray, a first grade teacher said. “You can tell everyone loves her its obvious. She will be very missed, but if anyone deserves a retirement its her.”
Her plans in retirement include extended boating with her husband. They usually take trips to Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard during the summer, but the hope is to go on longer distances now that she will have the time.
One place Annapolis Maryland is a necessity. Two of Plumb’s four grandchildren live in Maryland and Plumb is excited to be able to see both of them more often than just on school vacations.
“One day,” Plumb said, “we just may make our way down the east coast to Florida.”
Plumb has been active throughout the community and wants to maintain that service. She is considering joining the mentoring program for the Warwick Public Schools.
Looking back on her career as a principal she said the best thing was watching the kids progress.
“ You get to watch these kids grow from kindergarten to first grade and that’s a long time. When you get to see a kid who was struggling or maybe at risk make such magnificent progress its all worth it. It’s satisfying to watch, “ Plumb said.