Riverdale Elementary principal to retire

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Andrea Ellis, the principal of Riverdale Elementary School, will retire at the end of the school year.

“Mrs. Ellis has been a loyal, hardworking and dedicated employee for Southampton County Public Schools for a period of 41 years,” Superintendent Charles Turner said. “We wish for her the very best in her retirement.”

Turner said Ellis served the division as acting principal and principal for nine years, and was a second grade teacher before that. She was the last principal of Hunterdale Elementary School, which closed after Riverdale opened in the fall of 2008.

Ellis’ request to retire was approved by the county school board Monday night.

When asked who will replace Ellis at Riverdale, Turner said, “The school board will advertise to fill the vacancy and seek the most qualified candidate for principal.”

Syretha Wright, who is now the principal at Meherrin Elementary School in Newsoms, taught first and second grade at Hunterdale and worked with Ellis for eight years. She was also taught Ellis’ daughter, Beth.

“She was very helpful to me, as a new teacher in the county at the time,” Wright said. “She was always willing to help out in the classroom. She was really good with the children. She’s always been very children-oriented and loves children. I enjoyed working with her.”

Leisa Billups, the president of the Riverdale PTA, said she is a longtime friend of Ellis and has worked with her as both a former pupil and as a parent; Billups’ daughter started kindergarten at Hunterdale in 1999.

“Every time I’ve ever had to go to school and ask a question or need anything, she was always really accessible,” Billups said. “She has been a great principal to the kids. The parents have a good relationship with her.

“I think a lot of us, the ones that have stayed around the county, had her as children and then we have our children going to school. Having that relationship, of knowing her before our kids went there, it was more comforting knowing that there was somebody there that we knew.”

Dena Haydu has two children at Riverdale, in second and fifth grades.

“We’ve always had a wonderful experience with Mrs. Ellis,” Haydu said. “I knew her door was always open. If we had a problem, we could always go to her and discuss it with her. We will certainly miss her smile. She’s always greeting us when we walk in the office. She was an asset to the school, and she will be greatly missed.”

Michelle Buchanan, of the Riverdale PTA’s membership committee, said, “I think she’s been great, the kids love her. She’s always open to new things and new ideas. She’s been very supportive with a lot of the things we’ve been trying to implement this year at the new school.”

Ellis was unavailable for comment. She was reportedly in Raleigh, N.C., for the birth of her second grandchild.