The atmosphere at Parmalee Elementary School was a combination birthday party and reunion celebration as the school honored its 60th diamond anniversary.
The low-key open house on May 3 began with a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You,” followed by lots of cake cut by 23-year principal Ingrid Mielke — served to current and former students, parents, former faculty and more. While the children had a dance party in the gymnasium, the adults toured the school, spoke with old and new friends, and looked at 60 years’ worth of yearbooks. Some tried to find themselves in class photos.
The biggest change, many noted, is the increasing enrollment and how the building itself has changed. The entryway has moved, classrooms have moved to accommodate a recent addition to the building and more.
Former faculty and students were astonished by the size of the building, some joking that they got lost in the school. Yet one former student said her kindergarten classroom was in the same spot – a bit of comfort. A former teacher said it felt like the school now had hundreds of classrooms.
“It’s lovely to have everyone in the same building,” said instructional coach Molly Bachrodt, who has been with the school for 14 years. She said the temporary buildings behind the school that were used for classrooms were not so temporary.
What hasn’t changed is the community feel of the school and the teamwork by the staff.
“Everyone is good at pitching in,” said Roxanne Eddy, who has been the school’s health aide since 2004. “Everyone gets along really well. We all believe everything we do is for the kids.”
Bachrodt added that teachers, many of whom live in the area, like running into Parmalee families outside of school at stores and events. It’s part of the small-town feel of the school.
Marilyn Sandifer, who taught at Parmalee from 1966-1969, found herself in a class photo, smiling at the outfit she was wearing back then. She always remembers the staff’s friendliness, which is still true today.
Caren Matteucci, who has been a Parmalee parent, volunteer, PTA member and more, added that now as a fifth-grade teacher, she appreciates everything the PTA does for the school, calling the organization an “amazing change maker.”
Matteucci added: “There’s a community feel here. There’s a good balance between the teachers, students, parents and community. “
Emily Kemp Barker, who is one of three generations in her family to attend Parmalee, paged through yearbooks from the school’s first years looking for her dad’s photo. Her daughters now attend school here.
“(The school) is so much bigger now,” Barker said, “but more importantly, so much has stayed the same. That’s why it’s so special. Everyone you talk to feels blessed and happy to be here.”