Friends, family, colleagues, students and even a state senator gathered last week to honor Centreville High Principal Pam Latt who's retiring July 1, after 11 years as the school's leader.
Person after person stepped to the podium last Friday, May 21, in the school cafeteria, with stories and anecdotes of the many reasons she's become so special to them and to the school.
But one of the highlights of the evening came when her husband of more than 30 years, Centreville Elementary Principal Jim Latt, burst into song, singing lovingly to his wife, "Honey, everything's coming up roses."
"She's my partner, the mother of my son and my friend," he said. "Ask her about her greatest achievement, and she'll say, 'My son Jeremy.' She is a fantastic mother, and she's translated that into being the mother of all the students with whom she's come into contact."
After 30 years in education — all but one of them with Fairfax County Public Schools — Latt plans to take a year off to catch up with the rest of her life before deciding what to do next. But from the warm words and enthusiastic appreciation she received during the party, it was evident that she's certainly left her mark on Centreville.
The program began with musical presentations by choral students Lindsey Bestebreutje, Brian Marchetti and Dana Moreno, plus some of the cast members of the school's production of "Fame — The Musical." Then Sen. Jay O'Brien (R-39th) read and presented Latt with a Senate Joint Resolution honoring her on "an exemplary 29 years of service to the students of Fairfax County."
Centreville Assistant Principal Sharon Tompkins emceed the event, and acting Cluster VII Director Barbara Gernat spoke about how Latt's used her many gifts and talents to help students. School Board Chairman Kathy Smith presented Latt with red roses and said, "On behalf of the School Board, I thank Pam for her commitment to the children of Centreville High."
Acting Chief Academic Officer Laura Thomas brought Latt greetings from the division superintendent and noted all the students "whose lives she touched and changed." Said Thomas: "Pam has passion. She gives all of her I.Q. points to everything she does, and it's all for the kids."
Speaking for Centreville's teachers, math teacher and SGA sponsor Mimi Totten called Latt "amazing." Said Totten: "She knows all the kids and is their biggest advocate. She's a genius, a leader, a visionary — not afraid to take risks if they're for the good of the students. Pam, you're unique — one of a kind. My heartfelt thanks for all the love and support you gave to the kids of Centreville."
Sarah Gibson, a 2003 grad, said excellence is expected at Centreville and Latt sets the tone. Said Gibson: "She's my mentor and my friend and she had a profound impact on my life."
Current student Adam North said Latt relates well to students and they can talk to her about anything. Thanking her on behalf of all the students, he said, "She's willing to try anything to get kids to do better."
Senior Jenna Spealman said Latt "makes us feel special and that we truly belong here. She's a true blessing to this school, and everyone is going to miss her very much." Barbara Tyler, of the Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee, presented Latt with roses and thanked her for hosting the group's Martin Luther King Festival at Centreville, each year.
Springfield District School Board representative Cathy Belter praised Latt's talents, and parents Ed Duckett and Dennis Legendre of Centreville's Athletic Boosters, gave her a lifetime membership for all Wildcat athletic activities.
Her son Jeremy, 22, said he couldn't have gotten this far without her and gave her a big hug. And photography teacher Trinket Doty described Latt as brilliant and creative and noted how excited and enthusiastic she was when teachers brought her new ideas.
PTSA President Bud Gibson presented Latt with gifts from the faculty and community, including a quilt made out of Centreville T-shirts and assembled and quilted with paw prints by parent Elsie Dietz.
Then, tears in her eyes, Latt said, "I can't say goodbye. You've always made me feel special and terrific. I'm walking away sad — but I'll be back for the games. Your lives made my life very special; thank you."