June 19, 2008

Niagara Wheatfield Educator Retires After Stellar 38-Year Career

By Thad Komorowski

Seeing Carol Beebe retire from the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District is like watching an all-star finally step down from the hometown team.

She played every position -- even "manager" -- with determination and finesse during her 38 years of service. As she worked at a number of educational capacities at every level, she seemed to be able to do just about anything in the district but sell popcorn.

And it wouldn't be much of a surprise to find her selling it at school fundraiser.

Her familiar face and dependable presence have become synonymous with the school district and particularly, Colonial Village Elementary School.

Since becoming permanent in 1970, she has served as first-grade teacher, math and science teacher, summer school principal, assistant principal and computer teacher, and school superintendent.

Under her guidance, Colonial Village has been named one of the most improved schools in the state for fourth-grade English language arts.

Some of the visitors who came to pay tribute to the principal Wednesday in the school gym were "second generation" pupils at the school whose parents had her as their first-grade teacher nearly 30 years ago.

Any of the dozens of teachers, administrators, board members, parents and local politicians who gathered would attest that she was never reluctant to roll up her sleeves and tackle the task, no matter how difficult. They said she was always prepared and enthusiastic about her responsibilities as a student teacher, teacher, principal and superintendent.

Colonial Village has been her only "team" since she joined the district in 1969. She said she spent her whole career at the school except for her duties as summer school principal and her years as school superintendent of Niagara-Wheatfield.

Her time at the helm, during 1995-97, was a tumultuous era for the district. Having just forced out her longtime predecessor, the School Board promoted Beebe from principal at Colonial Village to become the first female superintendent of the district.

Beebe's leadership came at a critical time as she acted not as a peacemaker, but as a pilot who kept the board on task long enough to finally address the ever-present problem of student population growth. She persuaded the board and the voters to pass a $22.8 million renovation and expansion project which, at the time, was the largest project of its kind in the state.

She said the building of West Street Elementary School is the professional and personal accomplishment of which she is most proud.

"The thing that prompted me is that we needed to build a new building," Beebe said. "My goal as superintendent was to build a new school."

The board was made aware that she wanted to go back to Colonial Village and it began a search for a new superintendent. Beebe said she wanted to go because the situation was littered with "too much politics."

"I felt the goal I had set was done," she said of her decision to become principal again.

Of her accomplishments at the school, she named her staff as her legacy.

"I'm leaving an extremely talented staff. I'm very proud of the staff. They're all very caring. They give their all for the kids. They would do anything. It's that extra 'TLC' I've tried to instill," she said.

She noted the staff's integrity and commitment.

"If you don't believe in it, it's clear that you're phony," she said.

Although similar in size with 70 teachers and 550 students, Colonial Village has "socioeconomic differences" with the three other elementary schools in the district. It includes most of the Town of Niagara and its boundaries reach to Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls and encompass the Belden Center area.

"Even though we're not the largest, we're very diverse," she said.

Originally published by NIAGARA CORRESPONDENT.

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