Cutchogue East Elementary students gave retiring school Superintendent James McKenna a farewell send off Friday afternoon by honoring him at the grand opening of the school’s educational garden.
The grand opening began with school principal Anne Smith speaking to eager students, faculty and community members huddled together on benches and in the grass outside the garden. She spoke of the school’s excitement and thanked teachers and staff who were instrumental in creating the garden, which was done with the help of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Keeping with the theme, Mr. McKenna received a bag of tools so that he will be able to continue gardening in the free time he has during retirement. He excitedly pulled out each item from the bag, including: twine, a watering can, shovel, gloves and clippers. Most sentimental, though, was the bag itself, decorated with the colorful fingerprints of his former students.
“It is fitting to honor Mr. McKenna as we open this garden,” said PTA president Lisa Fox. “Every child has been given the chance to flourish thanks to [Mr. McKenna.]”
After 25 years of working for the district, Mr. McKenna is scheduled to retire at the end of the month. Following the ceremony he kept his focus on the district’s future — stating the importance of the new garden.
“What is really important is that it is teaching children healthy eating, to grow their own food and to take care of themselves,” he said.
The celebration ended with upbeat songs, such as “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang and Pharell’s hit “Happy,” as the children laughed, danced and played together on the blacktop.
Scroll through to see more scenes from Friday’s ceremony.