Residents to honor former principal
Local community members will honor former East Side Elementary principal Mary Ray at a special party on Sunday, Sept. 30. The event will take place at the Brazil YMCA, located at 225 E. Kruzan St., from 1-4 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Ray was the principal of East Side Elementary from the fall of 1992 to the spring of 2011 when the Clay Community Schools accepted her resignation from the position.
At Clay Community Schools' regular board meeting in May, the board voted 5-0-2 to approve her resignation, much to the dismay of several community members.
At that meeting, resident Christy Cundiff said, "The one person that supported us, our children, is gone. This is a sad day for everybody ... you just got rid of the captain of the ship."
Now Cundiff and other community members are working to honor Ray's service as East Side principal.
Ray's commitment to education began in 1980 when she began teaching at Clay City Elementary School. Ray taught at Clay City for one year before moving on to teach at Spencer-Owen Community schools in Owen County for seven years. She then worked in Greencastle with the West Central Indiana Service Center for two years. After her service in Greencastle, she took up the position of principal at East Side.
Ray spoke with The Brazil Times about the 20 years she spent as principal of East Side, saying she has many fond memories of students, parents and special events at the school.
Ray mentioned several special occasions that occurred during her time as East Side's principal.
"During my first or second year at East Side," Ray said, "the governor of Indiana was visiting Brazil's city hall. I decided it'd be a good idea to walk our kids down to city hall to meet him. He was so kind and came outside and shook all the kid's hands and took photos with them."
Ray's focus on keeping school fun and educational at the same time was not lost on former students.
Stormi Raines, a former East Side Elementary student who now attends Indiana University as a medical student, said "(Ray) stimulated my education from an early age. She always hosted great field days and made them really fun for students."
Ray saw many things change at East Side over the years, including a dramatic increase in the number of students receiving free/reduced lunch. Ray was also principal during the time East Side received a building remodeling and renovation.
"It was amazing what they were able to do to the building," Ray said. "They worked so hard, and we moved into the offices on the day school began that year. The building is beautiful, and I'm glad students now have an opportunity to move around more and take advantage of a larger gymnasium."
Ray enjoyed working with teachers at East Side as much as she enjoyed working with students.
"I always said that, just like teachers have their classrooms, the teachers were my classroom," Ray said. "I always pushed them to learn more and improve in the way they were doing things."
When the school received a $350,000 grant to be distributed over three years, Ray put some of the funds into teacher development programs.
"I was always trying to find programs that could help our teachers instruct better," Ray said.
Ray said the friendships with teachers, students and parents is what she misses most about her position at East Side.
"I love seeing former students and hearing about their lives," Ray said. "It's always interesting to run into them and catch up."
Ray feels humbled that members of the community want to host this party for her.
"When Christy first mentioned it to me, I said 'No, no, no,'" Ray said. "But she kept after me, and now I'm excited for it and excited to catch up with any old students that might attend."
As for the future, Ray said she is currently focused on taking care of her 95-year-old mother, as well as caring for her husband. She enjoys spending time with things "she didn't have a lot of time to dedicate to in the past," like gardening and tending to her home.
Ray is interested in the possibility of returning to college and pursing her doctorate degree in education.
"I really enjoyed my time as principal of East Side," Ray said. "There were ups and downs, of course, but I was glad to be able to work with children and be a part of their lives."