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Widow hopes to have school named for husband

HOLIDAY — Each time the Pasco School Board has sought names for new schools recently, Eileen Hulton has sent a short letter telling the story of her husband, William Hulton, a popular Ridgewood High assistant principal who died in 1999.

His name didn't gain traction, but that didn't dissuade Mrs. Hulton, who this year has resurrected her effort as the board prepares to name High School FFF next to Paul R. Smith Middle School.

Unlike past years, though, Mrs. Hulton mentioned her idea to friends, who ended up joining the effort. The district received dozens of letters in support of naming the school after William Hulton.

His is not the only name of a beloved educator appearing on the list of possibilities that goes to the board on Tuesday.

A group of parents and educators also is petitioning to have the high school named after Susan Beddow, a former finalist for Pasco Teacher of the Year from Bayonet Point Middle who died in July.

In both cases, proponents talk at length about the teachers' love of children, dedication to education and overall contribution to the community. To name a school building after either one would be a fitting and lasting tribute, they say.

But that's perhaps the biggest hurdle to either being successful, too. School Board members, who have named schools after top-level administrators but never classroom teachers, suggest the district has too many "unsung heroes" to choose among.

"We have a lot of great teachers who pass away," chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said. "It would be disrespectful for them to say who was the most deserving of all the teachers. I would like to honor them in some other way."

Four-term board member Marge Whaley shared that view.

"To single out any one teacher or one principal, how can you do that?" she said, adding that she prefers to name high schools after locations so visitors know what part of the county to travel to.

A long road

Advocates for the teacher names acknowledge they face a rough road toward success. That hasn't deterred them, though.

The people who they want to honor are too deserving, they say.

Marilyn Gallagher, a longtime friend of the Hulton family, remembered William Hulton as a person who willingly offered to help anyone who needed help.

He organized basketball tournaments and school dances, started church events and inspired children.

"He was a great guy," Gallagher said.

Karen Lane sent her children to Ridgewood during Hulton's 17 years there. She likened him to another dad for her kids and for many others at the school, one who tried to never miss events and who would take the time to get to know you.

"You'd see him at church. You'd see him in the community," Lane said. "When he passed, it was devastating. He was what you would want all administrators to be like."

Hulton started as a language arts teacher in Pasco in 1980 at Gulf Junior High. He became assistant principal at Ridgewood two years later. He was assistant principal of the year in 1995.

'Amazingly brave'

Susan Beddow taught math in Pasco County schools starting in 1976. Over the years, she helped write the middle school math curriculum, served on numerous leadership committees, headed her school's math department and was once a finalist for district teacher of the year.

"It's just amazing how many people she touched," said her husband, Tom Beddow, who recalled one of her students who wrote that she changed his hatred of math into a love so great that he became a math teacher. "For the kids, she was just like the best person in the world."

Friend and colleague Joanne Giglio, who spearheaded the petition, recalled how Beddow came to Bayonet Point Middle daily even after being diagnosed with cancer, struggling against her illness so she could educate her students. Giglio called Beddow "amazingly brave" and said she was a trusted educator with a stellar reputation.

"Whatever she did, she did incredibly well," Giglio said. "If something had her name on it, you knew it was high quality."

Mr. Beddow said he was "flabbergasted" by the drive to name a school after his wife and moved by the show of admiration for her.

"I think it would be a fantastic deal for Susan and the students she touched," he said, his voice wavering.

Other options also are before the School Board. They include Holiday High, Anclote River High and Freedom High.

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday morning on the name for the school, which is slated to open next August.

Mrs. Hulton agreed with Mr. Beddow that the naming could be a "wonderful tribute" if approved. But after nearly a decade of trying, she wasn't holding her breath.

"If not this year," she said, "I will try again."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Widow hopes to have school named for husband 08/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008 4:55pm]
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