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Students serenade outgoing Friday Harbor Elementary School principal

Outgoing Principal Jody Metzger received hugs from the entire school Monday, as grade by grade, students serenaded her and showered her with flowers for her 27 years of teaching service on San Juan Island. Metzger is leaving to become a principal in the Kent School District. - James Krall
Outgoing Principal Jody Metzger received hugs from the entire school Monday, as grade by grade, students serenaded her and showered her with flowers for her 27 years of teaching service on San Juan Island. Metzger is leaving to become a principal in the Kent School District.
— image credit: James Krall

Amid a chorus of voices singing “So Long, Farewell,” students from Friday Harbor Elementary School gave an unexpected and heartfelt send off to Principal Jody Metzger on June 9.

She was totally surprised.

In the school gymnasium, each grade stood up and sang the verses to the familiar song featured in the film, “The Sound of Music.” One student from each grade came forward and presented her with a bouquet of flowers as she stood out on a raised platform for the children to see.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Metzger said. “I didn’t even know about it. I kept walking into classrooms and they do this, ‘Ms. Metzger is here, Ms. Metzger is here,’ and I thought something’s up, but I didn’t quite get it.”

Metzger singled out each grade for what she would miss about each. “Are you a little scared to be moving up to the middle school?” she asked the fifth graders. “I’m excited about my move and I’m a little scared too. I really am,” she said to her assembled school.

Metzger leaves the island for the Kent School District where she takes a position as principal at Neely O’Brian Elementary School.

“I have 680 children; 63 percent (receive) free and reduced lunch. I will have 33 languages, but I think that’s in the Kent district, I don’t think that’s in the building,” she said.

Metzger leaves the district after working as a teacher for more than 20 years. “This is my family,” she said. “Twenty-seven years. It’s been so hard to leave. I know it’s the right time, but it’s been so hard to leave.”

First-grade teacher Luanne Pasik will miss Metzger.

“First, I got to know her as a co-worker and I was really comfortable talking with her. I could tell her anything. I could talk to her and she would listen. That’s a real gift to have in a supervisor, I think.”

“I think what struck me about her is she’s very, very giving with kids,” teacher Jay Westphalen said. “She excels with her personal interaction with them.”

“I’ve known Jody for quite a long time,” Carole Sjoholm said through misty eyes. “Almost 23 years full-time. We were both pregnant together. We bumped bellies a lot that year. When I think of her I think of laughing and smiling and being positive and upbeat through everything that life has to throw at you and everything that happens at school. That’s just Jody. Upbeat.”

Jan Bollwinkel-Smith has a fourth-grader at the school. “I wrote a thank you note to Jody today and I told her how much I appreciated her commitment and caring. I really noticed how much she really cared. With my daughter or me, she would stop and focus on you and talk to you and you felt like she was really hearing you. Obviously, she really cared about the kids and the community and she’ll be really missed.”

Gary Pflueger, former principal of Salmon Middle School in Salmon, Idaho, has been hired as the new Friday Harbor Elementary School principal.

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