Taylors Creek Elementary School students and faculty Wednesday surprised Principal Dr. Debbie Rodriguez with a parade in her honor.
The entire school lined both sides of the bus driveway, held up signs and clapped, cheered and waved as Rodriguez rode by in a red Corvette.
What did the students know about the event?
“They know that she is the best principal in all of Georgia and that she’s going to D.C. and she gets to meet the president,” paraprofessional Elizabeth Mullis said.
Rodriguez was named Georgia’s 2012 national distinguished principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the U.S. Department of Education.
Assistant Principal Tamela Scharnagl and teacher team leaders coordinated the event as a way to show their support and send Rodriguez off in style, Scharnagl said.
“She demands high expectations,” Scharnagl said about what makes Rodriguez stand out. “She’s very loving and caring, and the students come first at Taylors Creek Elementary School.”
Kindergarten teacher Tynetta Hamilton and paraprofessional Renee Hamilton said teachers kept the surprise quiet for a couple of weeks, planning during team meetings and with sly correspondence. Students did not know about the surprise until it was time to line up.
Art teacher Brenna Baluh had students create posters that wished Rodriguez well, they said.
Signs included students’ signatures and handprints and phrases like, “Wave ‘Hi’ to the president!” “Bravo,” and “You are awesome!”
Students snuck out while Rodriguez observed one class. And then administrators lured her outside by saying there was a strange car. There, former neighbor Lisa Smith chauffeured Rodriguez in her car, which she calls Ruby.
Rodriguez returned to the office to work a couple more hours before her departure. She said the parade filled her with joy.
“It’s just a great feeling,” she said. “It’s just so heart-warming, and tears filled my eyes.
“I’m just so proud of the accomplishments of the staff and students, and I’m representing their work. I’m just a small dot in this big honor. It’s about them and the hard work that they do.
“I wish I could take everybody with me to celebrate, because there are about 1,000 people — counting the parents and students — who work so hard.”
A release about Rodriguez’s honor said she stood out to the committee in part because Taylors Creek was selected last year as a “model school” by the Georgia Partnership of Excellence in Education. Taylors Creek has also been named as a Distinguished Title 1 School for the past nine years.