Supt. Alexis Meyer was doing well. A bit stone-faced perhaps, but she was determined to keep the tears at bay during the School Committee’s farewell tribute at its June 21 meeting, her final such meeting before her retirement June 30 after a 27-year career in EG schools.
One by one, School Committee members spoke in praise of Meyer and thanked her for her hard work, positivity, and willingness to hear people out. Committee member Tim Munoz said Meyer had sprezzatura – an Italian word meaning “graceful conduct or performance without apparent effort.”
“I could not have had a … better partner for what we’ve been through with Covid these last two years,” said Chairwoman Anne Musella, “your open mindedness, your curiosity, and your unparalleled work ethic.”
Musella noted how she would often talk with Meyer about something that seemed complicated or troubling and each time, Musella said, she would get off the phone and realize Meyer had been able to make her feel like things would be OK.
“There’s a small handful of people that I think about on a regular basis … you’ve become one of those people,” Musella said. “I’ve learned so much from you.”
Members Alyson Powell, Gene Quinn, and Nicole Bucka all commented about the unbelievable challenge of Covid arriving right on the heels of her start as superintendent. (Meyer was named superintendent of the district Feb. 25, 2020; the state closed schools March 13.)
“I cannot imagine how we would have gotten through it all without you. I will always remember that you were at the helm through all of this,” Powell said.
Quinn said the district got through Covid better than they could have anticipated. “A lot of that was the trust and skill and leadership that you provided,” he said.
As members spoke, Meyer would nod her head, or say a quiet, “Thank you.”
Then Dan Seger spoke. That’s when the quiet tears began to fall.
Seger, principal of Eldredge Elementary, had been Meyer’s assistant principal at Cole during her tenure. He recalled the year she had a fellowship from the state Dept. of Education and so he stepped in as acting principal. “Trying to fill those incredibly large shoes in your absence that one year” was really hard, he said. Then he thanked her for “showing me all along the way 110 percent across the board what it means and what it looks like to have a relentless and tireless commitment to excellence as it relates to service to a community, service to kids, service to families, and service to those around you.”
After Seger spoke, Meyer talked about how people have work spouses – ”I was Dan’s work mom,” she joked. But that has always been a part of Meyer’s personality. She was, in effect, the school district’s mom. That particular attribute came in very handy during the pandemic, when everyone was scared and wanted someone to say it was going to be OK.
In an interview this week, Meyer, who is 66, acknowledged that being superintendent during Covid had taken its toll.
“I did think I would do [the job of superintendent] longer,” she said. “It’s hard to leave but you also have to take stock, where you are and your own health. I’m retiring because I started to think about my age and my life and my opportunities, and my ability to be around for my family.
That job is demanding and I was there 24-7.”
Still, it surprises her. “I never thought I was going to be this sort of a person. I thought I would work until I was 75.”
And, truth be told, she will probably still be working at 75, only part time. What exactly she’ll be doing, that’s not clear. First up, she has a knee surgery planned and she wants to get her house in order. And there’s travel of course. Her dream trip would be going with her whole family to Greece, where her parents were born.
For now, it’s the bittersweet moments of farewell.
“I have said my goodbyes and that was not easy,” she said. “My hope and wish will always be the very best for this school district. There’s no doubt it’s hard to pass it off after being so devoted for so long.”
As usual, it’s the student interactions that continue to bring her joy.
“Have you been to the new Clementine’s?” Meyer asked, referring to the ice cream shop’s new home on South County Trail. “I walked in the other night and there were six high school students behind the counter and they all called out, ‘Hey, Mrs. Meyer!’”
The girl who herself graduated from EGHS in 1974, then returned to raise her family here and work as a paraprofessional, then teacher, then assistant principal, then principal, then curriculum director and, ultimately, as superintendent – she is finally graduating.
Best of luck to you, Alexis. And thanks.
EG’s new superintendent, Brian Ricca, starts Friday, July 1. Find out more about him HERE.