As the entire Oak Bluffs school population – students, teachers, and also a few parents – filed into the gym on Friday morning, they were greeted personally and warmly by former principal Laury Binney. He was wearing jeans, no tie, and a big smile. The smile is characteristic of the man who ran the school for 14 years, the attire emblematic of his new status – retired.
To start the weekly community meeting, principal Carlin Hart introduced the eighth-grade Spanish class, which recognized schoolmates’ birthdays and sang Happy Birthday in Spanish. After a dozen second-graders shared their Math Moment, Mr. Hart told the crowd, “We have a very special presentation for you today, saying farewell to Mr. Binney.” The crowd rose as one, as Red Sox broadcaster Don Orsillo likes to say, from their seats on the floor, to offer up a prolonged standing ovation for their former leader.
“Most principals don’t spend 14 years at schools anymore,” Mr. Hart said. He noted Mr. Binney’s dedication to the job, and the “long hours, not just daily but on weekends and holiday, that he put in for you.”
Among Mr. Binney’s many accomplishments at the school, Mr. Hart focused on his predecessor’s successful implementation of a program called Responsive Classroom, which stresses the importance of social and emotional growth, along with traditional academic progress. It has since been adopted at the four other elementary schools on the Island.
At one point, Mr. Hart asked the teachers in the room who had been hired by Mr. Binney to stand. As many as two dozen did so, including Mr. Hart.
Representatives of each grade %u2014 from kindergarten through eighth %u2014 presented a book to Mr. Binney, who sat next to Mr. Hart, listening to the kudos and acknowledging gifts. Titles ranged from “Ready, Set, Skip” to “Best Friends” to “How Full is your Bucket?” to “Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf!”
After Mr. Binney accepted a collection of letters from the PTO, the entire school population sang “Stand By Me,” led by music teacher Brian Weiland and his son, sixth-grader Liam.
Mr. Hart then turned the mike over to Mr. Binney. “Fourteen years is a lifetime for all the students here, but for me it’s just been a brief, shining moment,” he said. “This was the best job in the world, and the memories will stay with me forever. It was an honor and a privilege to be your principal.” The applause was long and loud %u2014 accompanied by broad smiles and not a few damp eyes and sniffles.
As the students were dismissed class by class, they approached Mr. Binney %u2014 alone or in clusters %u2014 to say good-bye with one last hug.
Later, in a quiet moment, Mr. Binney said, “You know, you get in the office and it can be like a black hole %u2014 the phone is ringing, people are coming in, and it can get crazy. But then you walk down the hall to the cafeteria or into a classroom, and the kids come up to you smiling, and you remember what it’s all about.”