Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Madeira school remembers principal

Blue ribbon circle unites students, parents, community leaders

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MADEIRA - Even an untimely death couldn't stop beloved Principal Roger Slagle from doing what he did while alive - bring people together.

As Monday's early morning sun lit up a dewy field behind Sellman Middle School, hundreds of students, parents, clergy and Madeira community leaders formed a giant circle with everyone grasping part of a long blue ribbon. Speakers described the 34-year-old father of two, whose wife, Heather, is expecting, as a dedicated educator whose loving heart extended far beyond his family circle.

"It was so powerful," said the Rev. Tom Sweets of the Madeira Silverwood Presbyterian Church, one of many religious officials from the Hamilton County community at the short school ceremony.

"This was an exceptionally young and vivacious person. This was a guy who hugged kids and called them by name. He would toss footballs with them on the playground during recess.

"The community has pulled together very strongly."

The gathering, inspired by a similar idea of Slagle's to comfort his students in the wake of America's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, left many students and parents in tears, but grateful to have the chance to publicly mourn and celebrate together the educator's life.

"Everybody thought they were his best friend because that was how he made you feel," said Sellman parent Susan Kucewicz as she dabbed her eyes. She said that when her family moved to Madeira, Slagle was the first school official to greet her son Andy, now a sixth-grader at Sellman.

"My son still describes Roger as his first best friend in Madeira."

Slagle, a graduate of Beechwood High School, died Saturday of an apparent heart attack while playing in a church flag football game. The Madeira school veteran had worked at all three of the district's schools, lived with his family in Fort Mitchell and was a member of Fort Mitchell Baptist Church.

Sellman school hallways were quiet Monday. Some teachers took their students outside to sit and reminisce about their principal's playfulness and good nature. Some youngsters smiled when recalling Slagle, others sniffed back tears; all the while school counselors stood at the ready for anyone needing to talk.

"When the kids first came to school they were in a daze," said Madeira school psychologist Rosemary Becher. "But the ceremony really helped. Now the kids are working it out."

Stephen Kramer, Madeira superintendent, announced Monday that all Madeira schools would be closed on Wednesday to allow students, parents, staffers and community residents to attend Slagle's funeral.

Slagle's funeral will be 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church with visitation starting at 12:30 p.m. and continuing until the service. Donations may be made to the Roger Slagle Children's Educational Fund at any Fifth Third Bank branch.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com

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