On Thursday, Boyce Elementary School in Boyce, Virginia repeated a tradition that has been going on longer than anyone at the school can remember. Former staff, community volunteers and spouses, in honor of their countless hours educating Clarke County youth, gathered in the school lunchroom to share stories, fellowship and a homemade turkey dinner complete with all of the trimmings.
Wade Johnson, Clarke County Public Schools superintendent from 1968 – 1989, said that he was very pleased with not only the improvements in Clarke’s
education system over the years, but was also very proud of one of his former star pupils, Boyce Principal, Susan Catlett.
“Susan was a great student and she’s a great school administrator,” Johnson said. “This school is fortunate to have her as principal.”
The annual Thanksgiving luncheon for former teachers and administrators offers Boyce students a valuable opportunity to meet many former educators responsible for establishing the school’s reputation for excellence as well as a chance to simply reaffirm a link between the generations, is a tradition that the school has honored for many years said Susan Catlett.
“Our school has been hosting this event for probably 35 to 40 years,” Catlett said. “Our motto at Boyce Elementary is ,‘A tradition of excellence, a culture of caring’. I think that our entire school community takes that motto very seriously and also takes pride in nurturing both our traditions and our school culture.”
Catlett said that she believes that many of Boyce Elementary’s achievements, including achieving the Virginia Department of Education’s ‘Average Yearly Progress’ goals, stem in part from the school’s practice of honoring traditions.
“I think that sometimes the intangible things can make a big difference,” Catlett said.
Also returning for the annual senior staff luncheon was Herman Lloyd, principal-teacher at Boyce from 1951-1955. Lloyd offered high praise for Catlett and her staff.
“This is one of the very best schools in Virginia,” Lloyd said without hesitation. “I love these kids and this is an outstanding school.”
Lloyd, who retired in 1983, went on to become head principal at Fairfax High School after leaving Boyce.
John Harris had a varied career as a teacher, counselor, and administrator for Fairfax County Schools for 30 years before retiring. Although Harris never taught at Boyce Elementary, after 21 years as a school volunteer who has seen five of his own grandchildren pass through Catlett’s school, he’s as much a part of the school’s tradition of excellence as anyone.
“I’ve helped organize the teacher’s luncheon and the second grade breakfast here for years,” Harris reflected. “I still remember when we use to make ‘dinosaur soup’ back when Susan was a second grade teacher,” Harris laughed.
As with Johnson and Lloyd, who both have worked in many school systems over the years, Harris also gave Boyce Elementary a glowing report card.
“Of all of the schools that I’ve been in, this is probably one of the very best in the state,” Harris said.
Around fifteen people joined Principal Catlett and Clarke County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent, Rick Catlett for the traditional Thanksgiving meal which included stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and, of course, turkey.
After the meal, members of the Boyce Elementary fourth grade class presented a handmade Thanksgiving Day card to each honoree thanking them for their service to the community.
“You’ve all been such wonderful supporters of Boyce Elementary,” Susan Catlett told the group. “We can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate all that you’ve done for education in Clarke County. Thank you.”
Former director of school maintenance and transportation, Larry Hardesty and wife Linda Hardesty, also a teacher, said that they are now busier in retirement than they ever were while working.
“We both love to travel so we have been doing that a lot!” Linda Hardesty said.
When not traveling, Larry Hardesty said, his time is filled with volunteer work.
“I volunteer with the SCAP food bank in Winchester a couple of days a week and I’m also involved with the American Legion,” Hardesty said. “I’m also on the committee at Stones Chapel Church where we’re raising money to renovate the chapel and get the church on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Several other former Clarke teachers also attended the event including Francis and Audrey Hudson, Bev Whiting, Christine Bailey, Gertrude Bell, Alva Shenk, Mary Margaret Johnson, and Karen Dellette.
According to one of the former teachers, something stronger than tradition keeps all of them returning to Boyce School again and again.
“I could never give this place up,” said Linda Hardesty. “There are just too many great people here.”