Always cheerful and ready to celebrate with her students, Lynbrook Elementary principal Mary McNamee has a big party to plan.
This school year, Lynbrook joins nearby Crestwood and North Springfield elementaries in reaching the 50-year milestone. Lynbrook's staff plans to mark the occasion with a community celebration in March.
"We had to wait until closer to St. Patrick's day, so we could tie everything in," said McNamee.
After all, when the school's mascot is a mythical creature named Lenny the Leprechaun, what options are there?
McNamee and her anniversary coordinator, librarian Pat Greco, have just begun researching the history of the school, which opened in February 1957. Prior to the school's opening, the 500 students who first attended went to Garfield Elementary, on Old Keene Mill Road, for the first part of the school year.
Recently, the first principal's daughter visited McNamee, dropping by photographs and memorabilia from the school's opening.
"She remembered the students coming from Garfield when the school was finally ready," McNamee said.
Other than a renovation in the early 1990s, much of Lynbrook has remained physically the same. On the inside, though, it's a different story.
"We call ourselves a diverse learning community, and I don't just mean because of the many different cultures here," McNamee said. "We have different learning needs as well. We have a HeadStart program and a pre-K for autistic children."
When Lynbrook first opened, students in first through seventh grades attended there. Now, the school welcomes preschoolers through sixth grade students.
Still, the school has remained a true community school, McNamee said.
"There was one man whose children went to school here, and now he comes back to be a mentor," she said.
THE GREATEST DIFFERENT between 1957 and 2006 is, of course, the inclusion of technology in every classroom.
"We are really trying to integrate technology into our instruction," she said. "Parents come in and they're thrilled by the SmartBoards in every classroom and the use of data projectors and scanners. We even have access to the Library of Congress now."
For McNamee, the school's anniversary celebration will only be successful if the community at large becomes involved.
"We're not just looking for past students and staff members who want to share their memories, we want the entire community to celebrate with us," she said.
The event, most likely during the week of March 12, will include performances by the students along with neighbors of the school.
"We want to open this place up so people who maybe don't have children in school yet will know what we have," McNamee said. "Our plans aren't firm and in place, but we're pretty excited."
Students will be given trivia questions in the weeks leading up to the anniversary, and a Family Math Night will be scheduled to help integrate the concept of 50 for the students, said Greco.
"Most schools will celebrate the 100th day of school, and we'll do that too," she said. "But since we're celebrating our 50th anniversary, we'll do something then too."
During the year, Greco said displays will be set up around the school featuring old photographs, yearbooks and class rosters from throughout the school's history.
"We're lucky that someone realized it was important to keep archives of the changes over the years," Greco said. "It's really interesting to see how fascinated the students are about the old photos. They're really curious about how people used to dress."
Greco said she wasn't sure what students would be doing in individual classrooms, but said a large project for all grades would be in the works later in the year.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the people who used to teach here and were students here," she said.
New PTA president Lora Johnson said she hasn't done much work on the anniversary yet, having just taken over the position and with a small child starting kindergarten at Lynbrook a few weeks ago.
"I'm meeting with the principal this week to talk about the anniversary," she said. "I'm very excited about it. I hope we can do it justice; 50 years is a great milestone."
School Board member Brad Center (Lee) said he's had some preliminary conversations with McNamee about the anniversary and agrees with her philosophy of celebrating the anniversary all year.
"We'll work together to do different things throughout the year so the kids can enjoy it all year long," Center said. "They're still going to have a big celebration in the spring, but they want to enjoy during the whole year. "