A community weeps Principal: Raymond Mathias' death felt deeply in Winfield, where he served a generation of youngsters.

May 13, 1998

THE MILKMAN'S long gone. The corner grocer in the stained apron who "ran a tab" if you were short a few bucks -- he's been replaced by the upscale supermarket. As for the bank teller who always had a sweet for the kids, she still exists, but you're more apt to have a regular relationship with her computer surrogate.

Among community institutions, the school principal is one of the few remaining familiar faces. That's especially true in the bedroom communities that have grown like thistle, but also in old-country settings such as Winfield. That's the Carroll County village that lost its elementary principal Monday in an automobile accident.

Raymond Mathias, 52, was killed when his car was split by a tractor-trailer whose driver apparently ran a traffic light.

Mr. Mathias, who attended Carroll schools, returned to rise through the ranks of the system. He circled the county, teaching in Eldersburg and Westminster, then becoming an administrator in Manchester and Winfield. The generation under his wing when he took over Winfield in 1981 is old enough now to have begun families.

Among the 1,050 elementary principals in Maryland, Mr. Mathias' staying power in one school is impressive, particularly in an era when statewide assessment tests encourage administrative shuffling. The average tenure for a principal is 11 years, half that time in the same school, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

The sudden death of a well-known, admired principal has left the community deeply saddened. Even in places not as tightknit, though, news about a principal would evoke emotion. Community pillars are increasingly rare; even the wise, old superintendent seems an anachronism, with the top spot in most school systems turning over every few years.

Our condolences go out to the family of Mr. Mathias -- at home and at the school he hed as principal for the past 17 years.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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