NEWARK — Students are not the only ones who experienced the drive-through goodbye this spring. At Holy Angels School, families said goodbye to their longtime principal on June 13 with that most 2020 of innovations.
Dozens of vehicles lined up in the school parking lot shortly before noon on a sunny Saturday, and they serenaded Barbara Snively with blaring horns, covered her in confetti and left her with flowers, posters and other gifts. Snively is retiring after 20 years at Holy Angels, the last 10 of which she has been principal.
The tribute wasn’t exactly a surprise, although Snively didn’t know the exact nature of what was going to happen until she emerged from the building at noon.
“She was told to be on campus at 11:30 and await further instructions. She’s in the office, undoubtedly watching us on her video camera,” said Mike Matar, a Holy Angels parent who has served on the home and school board with Snively for years. “I told her, ‘Don’t ask me any questions.’”
Snively greeted each family as they approached, offering words of encouragement to the students hanging from windows and standing through sunroofs. She managed to keep the tears to a minimum.
“It was very emotional, but there’s a lot of love in this community. “They came out and made my day. My heart is full of appreciation for the love in this place,” she said.
The Holy Angels faculty was on hand as well. First-grade teacher Stacey Reyburn has been at the school for nine years. She said the teachers did a drive-by at Snively’s house, but they wanted to be there to see the school community with the principal.
“Wait until you see all the parents and the children come through. We love her. She deserves this, and we will miss her dearly,” said Reyburn, also the mother of a recent Holy Angels graduate and a younger student. “This is truly special because it’s the whole community, and that’s what this school is about — family, community, love.”
Leslie Watchilla, who teaches kindergarten, added that Snively “wasn’t really a principal. She was a mother. She watches over us, all of our families. All of the kids are her kids.”
The teachers also noted that this was the final year of service for third-grade teacher Kathy Brown. She has been in education for 40 years, the last 27 at Holy Angels.
Reyburn said Snively’s devotion to the school was unmatched. She was usually in the building on weekends, getting work down while everyone else was at home. Snively said she was at Holy Angels several times after schools were closed in March, but the difference was tangible.
“It was very lonely. This is a building without the kids. It’s a school when the kids come in. It makes a difference,” she said. She also visited Holy Angels Church on June 12, which would have been the final day of classes. She is hopeful school will be near normal in the fall.
Mary Elizabeth Muir, former principal at All Saints Catholic School, has been appointed as Snively’s replacement.
Matar, who had one child graduate this year and another who will be entering fifth grade, summed up the prevailing sentiment of the families who came to say goodbye.
“We’re going to miss her tremendously,” he said.
All photos by Mike Lang.