Most members of the Upper Dublin educational community probably would have said that Principal William "Bill" Del Collo had already done more than enough in his 12 years of presiding over the building.
After he retires from his position at the end of January, they would have said that 12 years worth of students had greatly benefitted from his administrative abilities and compassionate personality, traits that had earned him the prestigious recognition as Pennsylvania's National Distinguished Principal in 2009. Those students, along with those who will continue to benefit from an excellent educational foundation at the school, which consistently garners some of the in the state, would have ensured his legacy.
However, Del Collo placed one last cherry on his career at Monday night's board meeting, when he and his wife Mary Anne unexpectedly presented the board with a check for $10,000, made out to the Upper Dublin Education Foundation.
"I will forever be grateful to Upper Dublin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of so many great accomplishments and have an opportunity to touch the lives of so many children," said Del Collo, speaking to the room before presenting the check. "The students of Fort Washington have always been special to my heart… they bring love and joy and excitement to our school. We're so lucky to have children that are motivated and want to do their best."
Del Collo spoke for several minutes, making sure to thank everyone involved throughout his career, including faculty and the Fort Washington parent community.
"The teachers and staff at Fort Washington are truly special people who go above and beyond every day for our kids. I can never repay them for the joy and happiness they brought into my life," said Del Collo. "And the parents have been wonderful supporters over the years. Their gifts of time and energy have always been greatly appreciated."
Del Collo personally thanked district superintendent Michael Pladus for his support over the years and his suggesting the candidacy for the Distinguished Principal award, and also thanked former superintendent Clair "Bud" Brown, Jr. for hiring him 12 years ago.
Del Collo then called his wife Mary Anne to the podium.
"Upper Dublin has been so good to us in so many ways, we'd like to give back and present a check for $10,000 to the Upper Dublin Education Foundation for the encouragement of teachers to continue to bring new, exciting and creative experiences to all of our students," Del Collo said.
After a rousing standing ovation by all in attendance, lasting just under a minute, school administrators and board members took turns thanking and praising Del Collo. Pladus began by saying that Del Collo would be formally recognized by the board later this month, but joked that the district would have to re-evaluate its plans.
"Based on the size of this check I think we need to get a much larger plaque," Pladus said smiling, and turning to his executive assistant Katie Braun. "Ms. Braun… a much larger plaque."
Pladus then praised Del Collo for a successful career.
"There are a lot of ways to measure the quality of a principal; tangible, quantitative ways like test scores, and intangible ways, like the way they react to parents, colleagues and most of all the way they react to children," Pladus said. "In every measurement possible, Bill Del Collo is as good of a principal as it gets, and he will be sorely missed."
"I'm not normally rendered speechless," said board member Vanessa Good, "but I wanted to thank [Bill and Mary Anne] as a member of the community, not so much the board, for your generosity-- it's truly miraculous."
Board member Art Levinowitz, president of the Upper Dublin Education Foundation, took a moment to find his words.
"As president of the [UDEF]… I don't know what to say. That was a surprise, and it's very, very kind of the two of you to make such a significant donation," Levinowitz said. "I guarantee you that the funds will be used appropriately and to benefit the kids."
A number of parents wrote to Patch to express their appreciation for Del Collo.
"I am so overwhelmed by his act of kindness… and so sad that he is retiring," said one parent who had multiple children move through the school while Del Collo was principal. "I cannot really express what Bill Del Collo is to [FWES] and our family… he was such an amazing combination of effectiveness and warmth."
Del Collo remained through a short intermission in the meeting, during which a number of board members, colleagues, and parents came to congratulate and thank him. Taking into account all of the statements and praise issued by so many different people, board member Margie Barrett perhaps said it best when she thanked Del Collo for his monetary donation, but said it was his person that would be missed most.
"You have been most generous with your personhood," said Barrett." [You are] the most beloved principal that I believe Fort Washington has ever had, and I think everyone will remember you for your kindness and your caring."
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