Thursday, January 8, 2004

Harmony says sad goodbye to founder

By Jennifer Mrzowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Ayanna Austin, a senior, adds her voice to the Harmony choir at Wednesday's memorial for David Nordyke.
(Meggan Booker photo)
ROSELAWN - Hundreds of students gathered in the auditorium of Harmony Community School Wednesday night to memorialize their former superintendent, who collapsed at school Dec. 29 and died.

The Harmony Choir sang songs about David Nordyke while other students unveiled three murals they painted, one of Nordyke with the characteristic bullhorn he carried to keep order in the school he founded.

Nordyke, 51, died of heart disease.

Wednesday was the first day back since winter break. Harmony was closed Monday and Tuesday in Nordyke's honor.

At the time of his death, Nordyke was teaching two classes and students say he was always known to walk the halls and talk to students.

David Nordyke
Many students, who waited in line to share memories about him Wednesday, said Nordyke was a father figure.

"He was one of the reasons I wanted to stay in school," said Korey Smith, 20, who graduated but comes back to Harmony regularly to mentor students. "I was going to drop out in the ninth grade but he helped me graduate on time."

Some students said they lost not just a school leader, but a friend.

"He was an inspiration," said Chris Johnson, 19, a Harmony graduate who along with Smith runs a graphics and publishing business called Street Fame. Nordyke helped them start the business.

"He said we need to get out on our own and get things done by ourselves," said Smith, who sported a T-shirt he and Johnson made. The T-shirt showed the heads of Nordyke and two dead rap artists encircled by halos. The inscription: "The real ones always die early."

Nordyke founded the school in a former Bond Hill dime store in 1998 as one of Ohio's first charter schools.

Nordyke wanted to teach students who weren't successful at other schools. Enrollment is now more than 600 students ages 11 to 22.

School personnel say they will continue the program.


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