Farring School gives principal royal treatment


June 10, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Told there was a major problem with one of her students, the principal of Farring Elementary raced toward the schoolyard yesterday with a frown on her face, fear in her eyes.

But when she arrived, the frown dissolved into a look of surprise. Before her were an audio system, cameras, her staff and 500 cheering students. Then music punctuated the air -- it was "God Save the Queen."

For one day, Shirley L. Zongker wasn't merely principal of Farring. She was crowned "Queen for a Day" and given the

red-carpet treatment by students, staff and parents who showed their appreciation for her work to bring life and achievement to the Brooklyn school.

"This is fantastic. It gives me a warm feeling inside," Mrs. Zongker said after the ceremony, her head rising through the sunroof of the white limousine that would take her to the Inner Harbor for a luncheon cruise.

Her subjects placed a crown on her head and a rose-colored robe over her shoulders. They gave her a scepter and a dozen roses.

The Queen-for-a-Day idea was conceived by teachers, who say the principal has made an enormous difference in her six years at the school. They started with plans for a luncheon. Then came a suggestion for the limo. Then the cruise idea.

"We kept on going," said Rhonda Friedman, a second-grade teacher who helped organize the event. "We feel that she's the finest principal in Baltimore City. She finds our strengths -- individual strengths in each person -- and allows each person to utilize those strengths. It takes a strong person to allow her teachers to try new things."

Ms. Friedman said academic performance and attendance have risen markedly since Ms. Zongker became principal.

The student promotion rate at Farring has improved from 87.6 percent in 1990 to 95.5 percent in 1993, according to school system officials. Attendance, meanwhile, has risen from 91.1 percent to 94.1 percent.

Parents and students also had words of praise.

Stephanie Rowe, a fourth-grade student, said that "without Mrs. Zongker, we wouldn't be a nice school like we are now."

Jane E. Teves, president of Farring's Parent Teacher Organization, said the principal has won over students by her concern for them and by improving their self-esteem. "She's worked so diligently over the past six years to bring this school up and over the standards at other schools," she said.

Mrs. Teves -- who has one child at Farring, another who has graduated from the school and a third preparing to enter it this fall -- wanted to make sure Mrs. Zongker knows she's appreciated. "I want to make sure she stays," she said.

Gary L. Thrift, assistant superintendent for the area, said Farring Elementary has improved so much in recent years that it is on the verge of meeting all state educational and attendance standards. But he flirted with inciting rebellion during his speech the students.

"I was thinking about transferring Mrs. Zongker to another school," he told them.

"Nooooooooo!" the students moaned.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yessssssss!" the throng replied.

"OK, she can stay," Mr. Thrift assured.

"Yeaaaaaaah!" the students cheered.

Teachers were able to keep the celebration a surprise, although the event had been planned for six weeks.

Students were told about the event just a couple of hours before it began.

The principal was detained by Mr. Thrift at a phony meeting while the entire student body and staff assembled outside. Shortly before 11 a.m., teacher Altamease Frasier ran into the office, saying there was an incident in the schoolyard.

"I'm thrilled to know I'm appreciated for what I do here," said Mrs. Zongker. "It shows that hard work does pay off."

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