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April 30, 2008 > History: Long-time Centerville employees

History: Long-time Centerville employees

Throughout Centerville School's long history, there have been a number of memorable long-time employees. While many names have been lost through time, some are still remembered by former students and colleagues.

The first known long-time principal was Joseph Dias, who served for 29 years. Under his leadership the enrollment more than doubled to 200 children. Students recall that in the 30s they marched to the front lawn to the beat of Dias' big drum for the daily flag salute.

Dias hired a number of excellent teachers for the Centerville School District. Probably best known was Tom Maloney, a member of San Jose University's Basketball Hall of Fame. He served many years as teacher, principal and district superintendent. He was active in many organizations and honored for his contributions to the schools and community. Tom Maloney Elementary School is named for him.

One of the best loved teachers in the 30s was Mary Dias Rodrigues who taught first grade for many years. Students remember her creativity in planning lessons, her enthusiasm and love of all children. At a high school class reunion, many years after being in her class, one group decided to have a reunion of Miss Dias' class. They gathered at Sunol Country Club to honor her-probably the only first grade class reunion ever held in the area!

Another long-time teacher during the same period was Anita Garcia Stubenger who taught second grade. Comments about her were "we just loved her," "she never raised her voice," "she had great impact on me" and "we loved going to school."

During this period, the custodian who served Centerville for many years was Joseph George. He is remembered for "helping everybody" and being "friends with all the students and teachers," but especially because each year he planted sweet peas in the school yard and picked them for the teachers to have in their classrooms.

One teacher who came to Centerville in the 40s, and probably stayed for 40 years, was Alice Lambrecht. An eighth grade teacher, Lambrecht is remembered for coaching girls' athletics and as an excellent folk dance instructor.

During the same period, May Davis taught first grade. She was often called upon by others for help because of her expertise in teaching reading. She was an artist and gave many hours of her own time teaching ceramics, copper work and other crafts to eighth grade classes.

Philip Brazil, a star athlete from Washington High School and San Jose University, came as a teacher and coach in 1951. Growth accelerated in the early 1950s and many new teachers were hired. Brazil was appointed vice principal, and then with the construction of Norris and Mattos Schools, he became Centerville's principal to support full-time superintendent Maloney.

Brazil developed intramural sports programs conducted at lunch time and after school. He also recruited several teachers as coaches who later became administrators. Arthur Schnabel became Brazil's vice principal and was named principal when Brazil became assistant superintendent in 1960. John Peacock became the first principal at Norris School, Hal Erickson at Maloney and Hal Clayson at Mattos.

Two long-time teachers whose careers started during that period were Inez Wooten and Myrtle Poier. They had much in common, became good friends, and were known for holding students to very high standards. Wooton taught seventh grade math and Poier taught eighth grade English. There are students of. Poier's - now 60 years old - who can still recite the poems learned in her class.

With unification in 1964, the school name was changed to Centerville Junior High, and it housed fully departmentalized seventh and eighth grades. Art Schnabel was principal from 1960 to 1979, a period of 19 years.

Dr. Garo Mirigian has been employed by Fremont Unified School District for the past 40 years and has been principal of Centerville Junior High the last 20 years. He developed community and school partnerships that included after-school tutoring, a fitness center, a drama room, and a large international exhibit. He has been a mentor to many and has received numerous awards for his work.

Ray Gehrke has been a physical education teacher and coach at Centerville for over 40 years. He was Fremont Teacher of the year in 1987 and has been recognized for his outstanding intramural sports programs. Some of his students became professional athletes and he has been dedicated to the healthy development of all students. Both Mirigian and Gehrke are retiring this year.

Other long-time Centerville dedicated employees include Jim Franchi, 36 years at Centerville, and Bruce Fields, 40 years in the Fremont Unified School District and Centerville. Our thanks to all who have served Centerville School.

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