For the students at Cunningham Park Elementary School, the walk to school has felt a little different since May 18. The well-known face of an always cheerful crossing guard has been replaced by a less-familiar — and, of course, appreciated — Town of Vienna police officer.
Leslie Brothers, who has been the crossing guard at that corner for 11 years, recently decided to retire.
Once word spread to neighborhood parents and students about Brothers’ retirement, they pulled together to organize a formal send-off with balloons, homemade treats and flowers. "The kids grabbed pencils and started writing notes immediately after they found out," said Lea Wilson, Vienna resident and mother of two Cunningham students.
The reaction was common among the students who crossed at her corner daily. Another parent, Lisa Evinson said, "When my kids found out they were sad, but they wished her well."
More than just a friendly face, Brothers made an effort to connect with each student she saw on a regular basis. "She took the time to know the names of every student and parent and was always warm and happy. You could tell she really cares about the safety of the children and adults," said Evinson.
"HER COMMITMENT to the safety of the Cunningham community went further than her last day on the job," said Acting Principal Linda Clark. "After her last day, she made sure the police covered the intersection. She’s impressed me greatly from the moment I’ve seen her."
In addition to fulfilling her duties as a crossing guard, Brothers works as a secretary in the school’s front office and works from home helping run her husband’s business. Her family has temporarily relocated to Alexandria and is moving to North Carolina soon.
Unfortunately, the commute became too much for her to continue her post and juggle all of her other responsibilities. "I really enjoyed the job. The families here are so great, I’m really going to miss them," said Brothers. "Even now, it makes me sad."
"Rain or shine, she was always there with a smile," said another parent, Virginia Schuette. "Not only did she know everyone’s name, but she knew which kids would run late and stayed until they got to school safely."
STUDENTS WHO have long graduated from their days at Cunningham Park Elementary remember Brothers. Julie Chiou, a junior at James Madison University and a 1999 graduate of Cunningham nostalgically recalls Brothers’ welcoming personality. "I remember that she was really nice; she always said hello and made conversation," said Chiou.
"You really could not ask for a nicer person, she is a lovely person inside and out," said Kathy Coles, parent of two Cunningham students. "She’s great with kids. I hope she continues to work with them in some capacity in the future."
She does, in fact want to work with children once she relocates to North Carolina. "I’d like to continue working in a school office," said Brothers.
Brothers will continue to work at Cunningham Park Elementary School in the front office until the end of the school year. Having her in the front office is good enough for the parents and students who interacted with her daily at her post. "She’s the first person you see when you walk into the building. "[In the front office], they do such a great job of maintaining a warm and friendly atmosphere," said Evinson. "It’s going to be difficult to fill her shoes."
Those in the Cunningham Park community that know Brothers appreciate her 11-year contribution to the safety of the children. "It’s a simple task," said Clark. "But it’s so important."