Smith Elementary School Principal Rochelle Thompson, who is retiring at the end of the school year, got more than she signed up for Friday when she arrived for what she thought was an administration meeting at Willis Education Center in Delaware.
Instead of speaking to district administrators, she had a virtual meeting with Smith fifth graders who wished her well and gave her a book full of goodbye letters.
The idea for the surprise meeting came from fifth grader Ella McMahon, said Susan Nimon, the Smith teacher who put the surprise together.
“She wanted to make a keepsake book for Ms. Thompson and have all the fifth graders write letters to her in the book since they would all be sharing their last year at Smith together,” Nimon said. “We decided to have a surprise party in the cafeteria with cake and ice cream to present the book to Ms. Thompson.”
The school closure focused the students’ plans to change, but they were able to enlist the help of Superintendent Heidi Kegley.
“We showed her the book and asked her for help with the surprise,” Nimon said. “Of course, she loved the idea and immediately was in on it. She planned to schedule a ‘meeting’ with Ms. Thompson to keep her occupied while we got everything set up and would bring her to the cafeteria. As we realized the original plan would not work, we decided to have the surprise be virtual.”
Thompson was brought into Kegley’s office at Willis Friday where a surprise virtual meeting full of fifth graders and Smith staff took place.
“My heart is full, full, full,” Thompson said after the surprise. “Oh my god. This is an incredible surprise. This makes me feel amazing everyone. You’re so gracious and grand.”
Kegley presented Thompson with the book made by McMahon.
“I was thinking because I knew you were retiring so I thought I should make something for you,” McMahon told Thompson in the meeting. “I ordered a blank white book and inside it are letters to you saying ‘goodbye’ from everyone.”
Thompson was brought to tears by the gift.
“I love it,” Thompson said. “I will treasure it for all my life. I am so incredibly grateful, everyone. You’re the best. I am going to miss you and am so grateful to have been your principal at Smith School. Going to bring a tear or two to my eyes.”
Thompson said the surprise completely caught her off guard.
“When Mrs, Kegley (called me to this meeting) I wondered what I had to do, I don’t know what report I needed to write,” Thompson said. “Mission accomplished. Best meeting ever!”
Thompson, who said she’s proud of the fifth graders, added she knows they are going to succeed at Dempsey Middle School.
“I am so thankful, just thankful,” she said. “I care so much about you. I can’t wait to hear the great things you do at Dempsey.”
Nimon said she’s proud of the kids for pulling off the surprise.
“It went great,” Nimon said. “The kids did a fantastic job. Mrs. Kegley’s ‘meeting’ was perfect, and most importantly, Ms. Thompson had absolutely no idea and was completely surprised! Of course, we all would have loved to be in the cafeteria with her having cake and ice cream but this was the next best thing.”
Thompson has served as principal at Smith since 2005. She announced earlier this year that the 2019-2020 school year would be her last.
In April, the district hired Jacob LeGros to take over the principal position beginning this fall. LeGros currently works as an assistant principal with Madison Plains Local Schools near London in Madison County.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.