If the kids singing “We are the world” wasn't enough to make her cry, the flowers and hugs to follow were.
Michele Milliam, kindergarten principal for 25 years between two schools (Tappan Hill for over two decades and John Paulding for the last two), found herself suddenly the star of the school recital she thought she was only overseeing.
The crowd of proud parents took endless pictures and video (please share them here if you have any!) as each classroom of kids sang their songs. Then there was the surprise finish: Milliam honored for her lifelong achievement with a playground in her name.
Physical Education teacher Ryan Fischer read his address: “Over the last 25 years, Ms. Milliam has overseen and implemented a loving and education environment that enabled young children to experience learning through a variety of different ways including play."
And with this they dubbed the John Paulding playground in front of the school the Michelle Milliam Playground (a permanent sign forthcoming) where, said Fischer, "children can learn through play and understand that childhood is a journey not a race.”
Milliam, wiping her eyes, said she will “pass this playground many times and be so appreciative of the gesture. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart and thank you boys and girls, you're wonderful.”
Superintendant Howard Smith noted that every day with the exception of one year Milliam has spent her entire working life in the public school system. “It's been a wonderful life,” he said. There are many memories and her retirement leaves big shoes to fill... “in fact, we haven't found someone yet.”
While Morse School retiring principal of only two years, Rosemary Prati, will be replaced by Thomas Holland, finishing his year now as principal of Concord Road Elementary of Ardsley, Milliam's ties here are historic.
"While the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow communities will never forget the dedication and loyalty that Ms. Milliam has shown over the years, her staff will miss her the most," Fischer said.
A mother of three in the audience, Jennifer Ahn, whose five-year-old was singing on this day, said “she was great. Kind but firm, drew the line and the kids really respect her.”