CLEARWATER — On May 30, a Friday, Skycrest Elementary School principal Sheila Jaquish retired after 39 years with Pinellas County schools.
But the following Monday, she was back at her desk.
She was working on a grant proposal that would help to fund a partnership she established with Ruth Eckerd Hall in 2000 called Passport to the Arts.
Even though she's leaving the principal's office, Jaquish will continue to volunteer.
"She's going to be truly missed," said Carolyn Lofton, a kindergarten teacher at Skycrest and outgoing president of the PTA. "But we know her number and she's not going to be too far away."
The principal's legacy: an arts program in an A school that brings out the best in students academically, even though most students are eligible for free or reduced lunches and 47 percent speak English as a second language.
Another legacy is Jaquish's spirit of activism.
"We want the best for our kids and families and sometimes that means going beyond the classroom," Lofton said. "And that's because of the leadership we've had with Miss Jaquish."
Lofton said Jaquish helps you find your talents, then inspires you to use them. This year, teachers stayed after school to teach English to students' parents.
Many a time the principal reached into her own pocketbook to pay for tickets to Busch Gardens for kids who won awards, Lofton said.
"She does all this stuff quietly," Lofton said. "It's not because she wants the recognition; she wants to be part of helping."
Jaquish said she will help the kindergarteners on the first day of school and "assist the new principal in any way I can."
She's pleased that the arts have helped to stimulate learning in Skycrest students.
"They are just doing wonderfully and I do highly credit reaching all the learning modalities through everything we do," she said. "And a special credit goes to the Passport program in the arts."
In her 12 years at Skycrest, what is she most proud of?
"The positive, warm, accepting culture that we have throughout our learning community," she said.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.