Rosemont Elementary principal retiring after 22 years at school

Sandra Duffy will close books on 36-year career in public education

May 22, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Rosemont Elementary's Principal Sandra Duffy is retiring after 22 years at the school.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jodi McLaughlin was holding back tears Tuesday as she was describing how teachers, staffers, parents and students would miss Sandra Duffy, who retires this week after 22 years as principal at Rosemont Elementary School.

“She always went above and beyond for the students,” said McLaughlin, a kindergarten aide for nine years and former parent of two Rosemont students. “Things were never dull. She made it fun for the students and for everybody.”

McLaughlin said Rosemont’s long record of being named a West Virginia School of Excellence points to Duffy’s years of dedication to the students and her caring, and understanding of everyone connected to the school.

“She made sure everyone had what they needed,” McLaughlin said.

“She’s the only principal many of us here have ever known,” said Phyliss Kafton, a secretary at the South Alabama Street school.

Tuesday was the last day of classes for the more than 18,000 students in Berkeley County schools.
Jefferson County schools end their academic year May 29, officials there said.


Duffy, 66, a Nicholas County, W.Va., native, is ending a 36-year career in public education. It began with a job as a federal programs coordinator in the Gilmer County, W.Va., school district.

She left two years later to become a stay-at-home-mom to her two children. She went back to work when they started school.

Duffy met her husband, Charles, when both were in high school in Nicholas County. He retired from a public education career 11 years ago. His last job was director of Regional Education Service Agency  in Martinsburg.

Duffy’s career path took her to classrooms and libraries in Charleston and Ravenswood, W.Va., and to Berkeley County at Hedgesville and Musselman middle schools, and an assistant principal’s position at Valley View Elementary before she took the helm at Rosemont Elementary.

“I figured I’d be here for about seven years before I felt that I needed to be challenged again,” Duffy said.

“It never happened. I found a home. I couldn’t have gotten into a better school.”

Rosemont Elementary has a reputation for its support from parents and community, and for its loyal faculty, she said.

“Teachers here don’t look for other jobs. We have a lot of seasoned teachers. The turnover is very low,” Duffy said.

Rosemont Elementary, a school for kindergarten through third grade, has about 450 students.

It’s a feeder school, along with Berkeley Heights and Winchester Avenue elementary schools, for Orchard View Intermediate School.

Erica Propst, principal at Mill Creek Intermediate School, will replace Duffy at Rosemont.

Among the changes Duffy has noticed in student behavior over the years has been less respect. She said she tries to build it into the students, but many seem to have lost their manners and their respect for each other.

“I ask boys to remove their hats when they come into school, but they don’t seem to understand why they should, even during the Pledge (of Allegiance),” she said.

Duffy said she makes decisions for the students, not for the convenience of their teachers.

“I knew this was the right year to retire,” she said. “I thought about it last year, but I knew it just wasn’t right.”

 She and Charles plan on traveling some, including some golf trips.

 “He plays a lot, but I’ve had to put it on hold,” she said.

One trip on the immediate horizon is a two-week vacation to Costa Rica with the entire 12-member Duffy clan.

Included are Charles and Sandra; their son, Cameron Duffy and his wife, Tressi, who have a local husband-and-wife family medical practice; Charles and Sandra Duffy’s daughter, Amber Boeckman, principal at Berkeley Heights Elementary School, and her husband; plus all six grandsons.

Duffy was among more than 25 Berkeley County school district retirees honored Monday night. The five who are retiring from Rosemont Elementary will have their own banquet Thursday at the Purple Iris at Hartwood Mansion, but Friday is the day Duffy is dreading.

“The hardest thing will be saying goodbye here,” she said.

County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said having the last day of classes on May 22 was “absolutely the earliest final day of school” that he could remember in his 38 years in the school district.

 “In a normal year, it’s usually around the seventh or eighth of June to make up about two weeks of snow days,” he said.

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