Two high schools invite public to share celebrations
Pantelej Tritchew, former principal of Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School, has good memories of his time there but is looking forward to seeing a new school open for Fort Erie students. Kris Dube/Special to the Times
Making students’ priorities his own was Pantelej Tritchew’s approach during his time as a teacher and the longest-standing principal at Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School (RCBHS).
He’s also known as Tritch at the school and by its many alumni who will be in town this weekend for a reunion and open house being held before the facility, built in 1929, closes its doors forever next month.
Sitting down for an interview with the Times at his former desk earlier this week, the 85-year-old said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s festivities and that he is eager to see a new era in education unfold as the Greater Fort Erie Secondary School takes shape and opens in September.
“Life is changing and whether you like it or not, we’ve got to change with the times.”
Tritchew started at RCBHS as a teacher in 1958 and went on to become a department head, vice-principal and then the head administrator, a post he held for 21 years until his retirement in 1989.
On school days, it was important for him to interact with students and not just sit at his desk behind a pile of paperwork, he said.
“I was always against just sitting here – I’ve got to move, I’ve got to help,” said Tritchew.
He recalled a day when the final bell had sounded and he found a Grade 9 student sitting on the school’s front steps, crying about a teacher assigning her 15,000 lines to write before the next day.
Tritchew told her to do what the teacher had asked for 15 minutes and he would explain in the morning why the student was slightly short in the required number of lines.
His motto was “pupils first, parents second and paper last,” he said.
An open house at Fort Erie Secondary School (FESS) will also welcome former students, teachers and administrators this weekend.
Former principal Larry Sirianni is delighted to be a part of the celebration.
“It’s one of my all-time favourite places,” he said.
Even before becoming a teacher at FESS about 30 years ago and the principal from 2003 to 2008, Sirianni says Fort Erie was special to him.
He was a high school student in Niagara Falls when he scored his first touchdown on the grounds at FESS and the gymnasium is where he netted his first two points in a basketball game.
Sirianni also spoke about his dear friend Paul Fell, a former town councillor and principal at FESS who passed away in 2013.
He recalls attending Fell’s 60th birthday party and realizing how much of as hub FESS was, how closely it united a lot of people in town.
“It was the fabric of the community - it tied people together,” he said.
Fort Erie is “a wonderful place,” he added, and he cherished all of his time at FESS, where his son Patrick is a teacher today.
“It’s a beautiful town. I love the people in that community and that’s why I love the school.”
Both schools will hold open houses Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20.
On Friday, both schools are open to the public from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Past and current students, staff and the public are all invited.
Also part of the weekend is the Party on the Patio: Fire and Ice fundraiser for the new arts theatre at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School, at the Leisureplex Saturday night.
For tickets contact organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org before 12 p.m. Friday.