The hand-written note from first-grader Christy Case summed up students' sentiments pretty well:
"Dear, Mrs. Whitmore. I do not want a new prinsuble. You are sweet a nuf. Please stay here. Love Christy."
Despite pleas from young admirers that she stay, "Prinsuble" Lauralee F. Whitmore said she knew it was time to move on. After eight years at Richard Henry Lee Elementary School and 38 years in education, Whitmore retired effective yesterday.
"The students made hearts and brought in flowers and did lots of things to show how much they'd miss her," said Claudine Dunning, a veteran secretary at the school, who worked with Whitmore since her arrival.
"A lot of them were really shook up when they found out. They don't know what to expect next."
More than a week after school had ended, youngsters were still coming around to see their principal one last time. Last Tuesday, two little boys on bicycles stopped and rapped on her office window, waving enthusiastically before peddling on.
"They come by all the time," said Whitmore, as she sat in her Glen Burnie office surrounded by half-packed boxes and reminders of 38 years in education, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal and principal.
Whitmore said she will take away many happy memories and mementos, including a 3-foot-high farewell card shaped like an apple and signed by most of the school's 600 students.
She also will take with her dozens of cards, notes and presents given by students as well as a videotape of the assembly held in her honor two weeks ago. Whitmore, who lives in Pasadena with her husband, Charles, said enough tears were shed at that assembly to last her a good long time.
Students made presentations not only to express their admiration, but also to help their beloved principal adjust to retirement. One group of second-graders put together an illustrated book of activities Whitmore could pursue in her newfound leisure time.
"They said I could take a ride on a hot-air balloon or go to the circus or plant some flowers. . . Or I could go to Wild World. They even had a picture of me riding the Big Wave," she said.
"It's a highly stressful job and there's a lot of responsibility," she said of being a principal. "I wanted time to travel and do some fun things before the health goes. I've been tied to this tight schedule for so long."
After nearly four decades working full time in education, she is looking forward to a less hectic pace.
"Just going to the grocery store during the day and not having to run my vacuum cleaner at 5:30 a.m. will be a luxury," she said.
Whitmore, who has three children and five grandchildren, said she looks forward to spending more time with her family, doing volunteer work, reading books and taking classes.
Wayne Bark, principal of Overlook Elementary School in Linthicum, will replace Whitmore effective today. Whitmore said she thinks Bark is an excellent choice to fill her shoes.
But staff members said those shoes are awfully large.
"She's a super lady to work for, very supportive of the staff and always willing to try new things," said fourth-grade teacher Darlene Doane, who has worked at the school for 14 years.
"She's very positive with the children, and I know they were very disappointed she's leaving."