Bollman Bridge Elementary is losing its principal today, and the students want her to know she will be sorely missed.
To prove it, they named last Thursday "Carey Wright Day."
Students drew pictures of her and hung them everywhere in the halls. They presented her with hundreds of silk and real flowers in cups, baskets and tin cans. They gave her poems, drawings and books that sat neatly in many stacks on her desk and floor.
And the parents, teachers and students threw her an ice cream party and gave her a VCR.
"It was really nice and I was so surprised because my daughter is in the third grade here, and she didn't even tell me," said Wright, who will replace Waverly Elementary's retiring principal next year. "Each team from each grade did something special to let me know I would be missed.
"This is a very special place."
Wright recalled being recruited in 1987 from Elkridge Elementary to become principal for the school, which had not yet been built. Bollman Bridge now boasts one of the largest volunteer programs in the county, she said.
"I've watched this building be built, hired all the staff and watched these children grow," Wright said. "But you have to face new challenges, and I'm hopeful that I can contribute to a new school.
"I like to tell the kids, 'You can do whatever you make up your mind to do. You're the best,' " she said. "I've lived my whole life that way, and that's how I will continue living at my new school.
"I've got a lot of mixed emotions because I'm excited and looking forward to working with my new school and the community, but I'm also sad to leave," she added.
Bollman Bridge students, faculty and parents said they feel the same way.
"She is a strong administrator. She is supportive of teachers, knows the curriculum and takes the time to know the community," said Maria McNelis, assistant principal at Bollman Bridge. "She will be missed not only by the students and staff, but the community as well.
"I didn't last through too many of the tributes because I cry too easily," McNelis said.
Erin Davis, a fifth-grader, described Wright as "funny and always smiling," and said Waverly was a lucky school.
"I always like coming in because she's always standing in the door smiling and saying, 'Hi, how are you today?' " Davis said.
As the bell rang and students poured through the doors, they turned, waved and smiled to Wright. Some ran back to give her hugs and others shouted, "I'll miss you," as they rushed to their buses.
"I'll miss you, too," Wright answered.