By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
WASHINGTON — On her last official day as principal of St. James School in Washington, students and staff showered Beth McBride with art, a skit and a song. She retired after more than 17 years in the position.
“I will miss the people with whom I work — students, parents and staff — we are family,” McBride told The Catholic Messenger.
McBride first served as principal from 1995 to 2009 before moving into public school administration. As she prepared to retire in 2016, the position at St. James opened up again. McBride realized she wasn’t quite ready to retire. “I was blessed enough to be called back home,” she recalled.
Now, as a new grandmother, she is ready to retire for good. “I am moving on to hobbies and interests I love that are difficult to fit into my life while being committed to the school.” These interests include her two young grandchildren who “definitely need more g-ma time!” McBride and her husband also plan on traveling.
McBride believes St. James will be in good hands as teacher Rebecca Clarahan steps up to shepherd staff, faculty and students at St. James. The school serves 113 students ranging in age from preschoolers to fifth-graders. McBride has spent time mentoring Clarahan, who has a master’s degree in Education Administration from St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The official switch took place Jan. 10, the day of the farewell assembly for McBride.
Clarahan believes God has spent the last 3 ½ years preparing her for “what I am about to do with the students, their families and staff.” After many years in the public school system, she moved back to the area after her mother died and started teaching at St. James in the summer of 2016.
The friendships she formed made her feel as if she were part of a family. “I felt at home, valued and supported.” This, along with her advanced degree and the mentoring she has received from McBride, give her confidence. “I recently had an epiphany that this was part of God’s plan and that my work and time at St. James is a Jesus calling. I have been called to be a witness and to spread God’s word.”
McBride is confident that Clarahan is ready to help the school build on its strengths, which she identified as diversity — the town of Washington has a higher-than-average percentage of Hispanic residents — and high test scores.
“Our students transition to the public school in sixth grade. Feedback that we receive from middle- school teachers is that St. James students are respectful, mature and have a strong work ethic,” McBride said. As for Clarahan, “she has a strong knowledge base, she cares about kids, and she is already deeply invested in the school.”