June 29, 2008

Loss of educators a blow to Howard

These past couple of weeks have been difficult ones for those who care about education in Howard County. Two of the finest educators to serve this county are now gone, and their losses will be felt by former students as well as their peers and colleagues. Sam Leishure and Jim (Jr.) McCrumb offered the very best for so long, and they both will be sorely missed. I was fortunate enough to have spent most of my career working with these men. And their impact on me and others like me as well as so many of Howard County's students will be everlasting.

I spent my last six years in Howard County working in Centennial High School's guidance office with Sam, who headed that department. As a counselor and coach in the county, I had known Sam and had worked with him from time to time. However, working with him on a daily basis gave me new insight into his makeup. He was probably the most humble, conscientious and moral person I ever worked with. Sam affected so many youngsters in a positive way, always trying to do right by our students. He was a diligent worker who usually was the first to arrive in the office and the last to leave. He cared so much about his students as well as the staff at Centennial. He loved his job and his school, and his actions reflected just that. Although usually in the background and never seeking individual attention and/or accolades, Sam quietly would go about his job making a significant and positive impact on Centennial High School and its staff and students. He was a caring, thoughtful, kind person whose work ethic served as a model for all who knew him.

JR was my first principal in Howard County, and we worked together for about 15 years. What good fortune for me to work under Jim at the beginning of my career. There wasn't a student at Mount Hebron High School that JR did not know. From the brightest and best to those struggling to get through high school, Jim knew them all and treated all the same. He reached out to those most in need, and those students in particular loved him. Youngsters that hated school and never had a positive experience in an educational environment were the ones JR bonded with the best. He probably would have had a tough time being a principal in more recent times, since Jim was going to do what he thought was right and in his students' best interests, regardless of mandates from his superiors. Although I worked with a number of outstanding and caring principals, Jim's warmth and flexibility far exceeded anyone else's. He helped create a spirit and atmosphere where students and staff loved being part of the Mount Hebron community. It was so special to be part of the McCrumb era at Mount Hebron High School.

These two outstanding professionals impacted so many people in Howard County in such a positive way. Their loss is a sad blow to everyone in education, to everyone who cares about kids, and to all those students with whom they came in contact. But their legacies will carry on in those of us on whom their influence was so important.

Dave Greenberg, Hilton Head, S.C.

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