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Edgartown School celebrates retiring principal Ed JeromeWith fond whoops and hollers, and thank yous
In the heart of things at the Edgartown School — that's been Ed Jerome's place for 26 years. The school celebrated his retirement this week. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Last Friday was probably one of the few times the unbridled whooping and hollering of students brought no admonishments from a school principal. But on the occasion of Ed Jerome's retirement after 26 years as principal at Edgartown School, he could only smile at the unabashed affection and noisy tribute being paid him by hundreds of children, teachers, parents, town leaders, community members and school officials who cheered, clapped and rose to their feet in his honor.
The celebration was a time for group hugs, with Mr. Jerome at the hub.
His retirement ceremony, held in the gymnasium at the end of the school day, included many who had come full circle, like Debbie Grant, now a teaching assistant at the school where she once was a student herself under Mr. Jerome's guidance. Ms. Grant emceed the event, introducing Joanne Cassidy, also a former Edgartown School student who is now a well-known Island performer. Reminding Mr. Jerome he had once asked her to perform a certain song at her 8th grade graduation, Ms. Cassidy sang "Look to the Rainbow" in his honor.
Along the gymnasium wall, a huge poster that read, "Thank you, Mr. Jerome," covered with hundreds of signatures and bordered with cutouts of brightly colored fish, provided a cheerful backdrop for songs, skits, and poems performed by several of the classes. Mr. Jerome enjoyed it all while seated in a high-back rocking chair, wearing his last "back to school" tie he picked out with his wife Maryanne this year, decorated with neon bluefish on a raspberry-colored background.
Farewell, Mr. Jerome said, as retirement and lots of time to fish loomed.
In-between student presentations, both a former and current staff member paid tribute to their principal and boss. Michael Joyce, a former Edgartown School guidance counselor, introduced himself as one of the few "BMJ's" (Before Mr. Jerome). His emotion evident, Mr. Joyce said one of Mr. Jerome's best qualities as a principal was that "…he trusts you to be professional."
A similar sentiment was expressed by John Bachellor, who came to Edgartown School in 1968 and was a teacher and coach when Mr. Jerome arrived at the school in 1979. "Ed always encouraged staff members to go on and become as professional as possible — that is one thing that will stick in my mind," Mr. Bachellor recalled. "If I hadn't done that, I would not have become assistant principal for the last seven years. He made me what I am."
Longtime Edgartown School colleague Mike Joyce described the contributions Mr. Jerome has made to the school.
In addition to their tributes, Mr. Jerome received special gifts from the student council and parent-teacher organization. Phoebe Kelleher, president of the student council, presented Mr. Jerome with a card and the promise of a DVD of the assembly at a later date. Representing the parent-teacher organization, co-chair Shannon Donovan and treasurer Janna O'Shaughnessy told Mr. Jerome that their group will plant a dogwood tree with a plaque bearing his name in a location of his choice on the school grounds. The tree was donated by Fred Fournier of Landscope in Edgartown.
At the end of the retirement festivities, Paul Dulac, the school's interim principal for the rest of the school year, offered Mr. Jerome a chance to speak. Greeted with a standing ovation, Mr. Jerome teasingly asked the audience, "How did you prepare all this without me knowing?"
Smiles all around on a day tinged with sadness.
He began his remarks by recognizing Peter Bettencourt, Edgartown's town administrator, as someone in the community who was his friend and confidante over the years. Calling Edgartown School his "second home," Mr. Jerome encouraged his students to work their hardest in the classroom, their parents to stay connected with them and their school, and the teachers to do their best. He joked that one of his challenges, besides missing everyone, will be surviving without Gina deBettencourt's wonderful cafeteria lunches.