Rowlett Academy pays tribute to its principal
BRADENTON -- The students are why Rowlett Academy Principal Brian Flynn does what he does.
They make him laugh and he hopes he makes them laugh, he said.
"I try to create an atmosphere and their teachers create an atmosphere for kids to just be kids," Flynn said. "We forgot about that. I don't know how many years ago we forgot about that, but we forgot that education should be a fun and enjoyable experience where kids actually get up in the morning and are excited about going to school."
After serving students, parents, and the community for 40 years, Flynn is retiring from education. In his education career he has been a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Palmetto Elementary, Daughtry, Braden River Elementary, Wakeland, and was selected 16 years ago to open Rowlett Magnet School, which has since become Rowlett Acad
emy of Arts and Communication.
A crowd of a couple hundred, which included students, former students, parents and staff gathered Saturday afternoon in the Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication's multipurpose room to bid farewell to school's outgoing principal and wish him well in retirement.
Eleven-year-old Gaby Cortes led the "farewell broadcast" even breaking down in tears as she sat with Flynn, 64, and shared her own thoughts.
"I want to say thank you for all the opportunities you guys have given me," Gaby said. "As Mr. Flynn goes into retirement, I want his legacy to stay with all of us, everyone and the amazing things he has done for us. And that is something we will never forget."
Gaby began to cry again, as she leaned her head on Flynn's shoulder and he gave her a hug while the crowd clapped.
Carol, Flynn's wife of 42 years, and their children, Erika Foster, 35; and Scott Flynn, 32, also joined him on stage to share their own kind words.
His son congratulated him on the legacy he is leaving behind. "He's become more of a legend," the younger Flynn said. "What he's done here is legendary."
Carol Flynn, 65, shared a funny story with the crowd to illustrate her husband's ability to do what it takes to reach students.
"One of my favorite stories is finding out that he actually rollerbladed down (U.S.) 41 and into Arby's ... to get kids to come to skate night," she said. "Since you are not the best skater I about had a heart attack when I saw the video with all the cars whipping past you."
She went on to talk about when Rowlett opened.
"You knew from the beginning what you wanted Rowlett to be," she said. "Things are not like they were when this school opened 16 years ago. ... Now look at this incredible school that you have here that has a waiting list to get into each year."
Flynn also received a surprise from friends and former colleagues, Katie and Chuck Fradley, all the way from Hawaii thanks to Skype.
"You are my mentor," Chuck Fradley said. "You have personally and professionally inspired our family so we're proud of you and all the thousands of boys and girls you have touched."
He went on to tell all the children in the crowd to say aloha and explained it not only means hello and goodbye, but also that you really love and are proud of someone.
"And Brian, you have been that inspiration to us," he said.
Assistant Principal Kimberly Penman, set to succeed Flynn as principal next year, also paid tribute. She recalled the first time she visited the school at his wife's urging.
"It was nine years ago I came to this campus," Penman said. "The minute my feet his this ground, I knew I was home."
Then Penman opened the bag on her lap, and pulled out a pair of clown shoes.
"I have some very big shoes to fill," Penman said as the crowd erupted in laughter. "You always were encouraging. ... You taught me the importance of relationships."
Penman also presented him with a framed certificate as she told him the multipurpose room he was standing in would now be known as Flynn Hall.
"We never want to forget the person who founded Rowlett magnet turned charter," Penman said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.