FREEPORT — As she walks down the hallways of Morse Street School, Principal Cherie White talks to each child she sees and calls them by name. She has walked these corridors for 20 years, and knows all of the students, their siblings and their parents. She visits each classroom every day.
A few months ago, White announced she would retire at the end of 2010.
“I started teaching in the fall of 1970 in Scarborough, and came to Morse Street in the fall of 1990,” she said. “With a mix of sadness and excitement, I will retire after 40 years in education.”
She said when she first arrived at Morse Street in 1990, the school housed kindergarten through fifth-grade students. When Mast Landing opened in the fall of 1991, the third through fifth grades moved there.
Now, Morse Street has about 240 students, White said. There are five kindergarten classes, five first-grade classes and four second grades. The Laugh and Learn preschool program and before and after care is also housed in the building.
“This school is the ‘Velveteen Rabbit’ of the system,” White said. “Well worn, and very loved.”
White received her bachelor’s degree in British history from Colby College and a master’s in special education from the University of Maine at Orono. She earned a certificate of advanced study from the University of Southern Maine.
She was born in Lewiston, grew up in Dover-Foxcroft, and has been married for 37 years. She has two children and is a proud grandmother.
“I just feel so loved,” she said. “I am forever grateful to have known all these special people over the years.”
Jennifer Fox, the mother of three children in the RSU 5 system, said she has known White for five years. She said White is an advocate for the children, a partner for her teachers and a champion of education.
“Cherie is phenomenal,” Fox said. “She always makes time for people, listens well, and makes you feel as if your issues are the most important, the only ones that count.
“On a personal level, she always had my children’s best interests in mind,” she said. “That’s who I want in charge, someone who cares about and knows my child.”
Over the years, White said she has seen numerous changes in education. She is particularly proud of the 3-year-old all-day kindergarten program, which took 10 years to establish.
Another source of pride for her is the Book Room, the heart of the school’s guided reading program. For each class, teachers have access to multiple copies of various level texts, based on the student’s reading level, ability and needs.
“This journey has been incredibly humbling,” White said. “It truly is the best job I could have had. To hire new teachers, to launch new careers, to watch them grow, learn, and excel in their profession – it has been so rewarding.”
She said each year, budget seasons are difficult. She also said it was a struggle to separate herself from the job after hours.
“Like teaching, being a principal has no end time. It’s hard to not bring your work home,” she said. “Once I’m home, its hard to stop thinking about what is best for the children, what parents have said, and how to do my job better.”
She said she is surprised how quickly time has passed and how fast the children grow.
Kyle Goodrich, now a college student, was a student at Morse Street. At a recent party for White he wrote in her guest book: “From once a boy to a man, thank you for all that you have done. You have helped guide me on the path of education.”
White said her emotions have fluctuated from sad, to bittersweet, to nervous to excited.
“I cannot think of any other profession that would allow me to interact with children, teachers, and parents than the one I have,” she said. “It has been lovely.”
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Students present Principal Cherie White with a handmade card during a celebration on Wednesday, June 2, in Freeport. Nearly 200 people gathered together to celebrate White’s 20 years as principal of Morse Street School.
Cherie White will leave Morse Street School in Freeport after serving as principal for 20 years. She said she feels excited, nervous, bittersweet and sad about her retirement.