Past and present EBO principals (L to R) Valaria Wheatley, Ph.D., Christine Thomas Hodge, Ph.D., Leona Wheatley, Lydia Lettsome and Carolyn Archer.
The Emanuel Benjamin Oliver (EBO) Elementary School celebrated the 141st birthday of its namesake, Mr. Emanuel Benjamin Oliver, with a special program recognizing the renowned educator, as well as previous principals that have served the school since its doors opened in 1975.
On Tuesday, May 30, students, along with the EBO faculty and administrators, welcomed relatives of Mr. Oliver and the former principals to the school's amphitheater where they were recognized for their role in the growth and advancement of the school.
The program, titled, “Honoring the Man and the Pillars,” opened with an invocation and welcome by assistant principals Sherryl Tongue George and Phyllis Bryan. EBO’s first principal, Leona Wheatley, who served from 1975-1984, recalled the offer she received to assume leadership at the new school.
“I was at Dober when I got the call from the superintendent at the time who said they were opening a new school out in Tutu and they wanted me to be the principal,” said Wheatley. “I must admit, I was a little surprised, but I led the charge and welcomed my first set of students in ’75.”
Former EBO staff member during Wheatley’s tenure, Vernelle de Lagarde, presented crystal paperweight awards to the first three principals who served from 1975 to 1989: Wheatley, James Gilbert (posthumously) and Christine Thomas- Hodge, Ph.D.
Following the first recognition of honorees, EBO’s quadrille dancers performed a cultural tribute.
In the spirit of honoring the pillars, Andre Malone, a member of EBO's first graduating class of 1976, delighted the audience with memories of his school experience under Wheatley. He also revealed that his class created a time capsule and buried a box of artifacts and collectibles nearby the basketball court prior to their graduation.
After Malone’s address, awards were presented to the administrators who served from 1989 to 2017: Valaria Wheatley, Ph.D., Emily Carter, Ph.D., Felix Durand, Ph.D. (current Joseph Sibilly Elementary School principal), Lydia Lettsome, Lois Habtes, Ph.D., and present-day EBO principal Carolyn Archer.
Following the presentations to the former principals, remarks were given by Carol Henneman, the great granddaughter of Emanuel Benjamin Oliver. She accepted a special award on the family’s behalf.
“Through all of his [Oliver's] accomplishments in the education system, I am happy to say that he came from humble beginnings in Montserrat and brought his teaching experience here to the Virgin Islands,” Henneman said. “My point is, we’re all one united people here in the Caribbean. We can all learn things from each other.”
St. Thomas-St. John District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kifani Hendricks-Carey delivered remarks on behalf of the Office of the Insular Superintendent, followed by closing remarks by Principal Archer.
The EBO concert band concluded the morning’s ceremony with the Happy Birthday song.
Following the ceremony, a ribbon-cutting was held for the new Learn and Play Center at the EBO library. The center, geared toward kindergarten through second grade students, includes a small play area with educational games and toys; a reading corner equipped with carpet and beanbags; and a media center where students can listen to audiotapes.
Librarian Benilda Nablo is proud of what the library now has to offer primary students. “This is my dream come true, I want them to play and have fun while they are learning,” she said.
The library staff will schedule class time for the Learn and Play Center, which will also be used as a retreat for students exhibiting positive behavior.
Great-granddaughter of Mr. Emanuel Benjamin Oliver, Carolyn Henneman give remarks. Class of 1976 member Andre Malone shares memories of his 6th grade year at EBO. Past and present EBO principals (L to R) Valaria Wheatley, Ph.D., Christine Thomas Hodge, Ph.D., Leona Wheatley, Lydia Lettsome and Carolyn Archer. EBO Ensemble performs the Happy Birthday Song. EBO first principal Leona Wheatley accepts her award. Former EBO principal Valaria Wheatley (1989-1994) gives remarks after accepting her award. EBO quadrille dancers perform a cultural tribute.
Carolyn Henneman accepts the EBO family award. EBO Kindergarten Enrichment Class performs a poem in honor of E. Benjamin Oliver. EBO principal Carolyn Archer accepts her award. EBO's new Learn and Play Center opens in the library for K-2 graders. EBO past principal Felix Durand, Ph.D. address the audience.