Columbia Falls Junior High Principal Dave Wick figures he’s greeted school administrative assistant Lynde Newman around 4,450 times over her 21-year tenure at the school.
Friday marked Newman’s last day sitting behind the desk at the school’s front office. It’s a job that requires wearing a lot of hats — in the course of a half hour Newman has kept track of the whereabouts of a half-dozen students, answered the phone a couple of times and greeted a host of teachers as they came in and out.
And she’s done it all with her trademark smile and affable personality.
Her advice for her replacement is simple.
“It would be great if they were a mom,” she said. “It takes a lot of mom skills to be here.”
Newman said she loves the junior high, even though it can be a difficult time for many students.
“They’re in between trying to find out who they are and where they’re at,” she said.
And some are just a touch oblivious to their surroundings. One student walks in and sees the sign that says “Happy Retirement” right behind Newman.
“Who’s retiring?” she asks.
Newman started her career as a custodian in the 1980s, then was a paraeducator for year under Dee Brown before joining the junior high office staff in 1990.
“I like the first day of school,” she said. “Everyone is so happy to be here.”
There’s been some memorable days. Wick had his head shaved bald as a fundraiser once. Science teacher Eric Morgan wrenched his back at Christmas as he floated through the halls in leotards playing one of the leaping lords from the 12 days of Christmas.
Newman has three grown daughters of her own — Tresha, Jessica and Rachel. She has seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Neman and her husband, Tom, plan to travel more and visit them. Two of the girls live on the coast — one in Washington and one in Oregon.
Newman will be sorely missed.
“I watched you daily deal with student issues with grace,” Wick wrote in a farewell letter. “You played nurse, counselor, confidant, organizer, giver, mom, grandma, and everything in between. When the good lord gave out patience, you got more than your share and you gave it to the kids and to us every day.”