Zia students bid farewell to principal

Zia Elementary Principal Mel Mapes receives a present from second-grader Kelsey Knight at an assembly Friday afternoon to honor his recent retirement. CNJ staff photo: Mike Linn.

By Jack King: CNJ staff writer

About 420 highly enthusiastic first- through sixth-graders filled Zia Elementary’s gym Friday afternoon to raise their voices in praise of Mel Mapes, Zia’s principal who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Tributes included everything from a proclamation read by Clovis Mayor David Lansford naming Friday “Mel Mapes Appreciation Day” to a baptism in silly string for the good-natured principal.
The proclamation noted that Mapes has been an educator for 37 years and Zia’s principal since 1985. He is responsible for the creation of such Zia events as Halley’s Comet Night, Zia to the Zoo, Treasure Hunt, RIOT (Reading Instead of TV) Week and Invent Zia, where students and their families took on such tasks as inventing an egg carton strong enough to protect an egg when it was dropped from a cherry picker.
Presentations — many of which seemed more like roasts than tributes — were made by faculty, staff and students in each grade. Kindergartners sang “Happy Trails To You.” First-graders sang “Oh, Give Me A School …” to the tune of “Oh, Give Me A Home,” with a chorus of “Mr. Mapes, Mr. Mapes is the best.”
Second-graders lead a rousing cheer, complete with its own card section spelling out “M-A-P-E-S,” while the third-graders sang a song to the tune of “Bingo, Was His Name” that included such verses as “And then one day he broke his arm, While climbing on a ladder, O what a horrible night, Everybody was uptight, Don’t know if we’ll have Parent Night.”
The fourth-graders created their own version of the 1950s TV show “This Is Your Life” with a digital recap of Mapes’ career, while the fifth-graders sang “Mr. Mapes Had A School” to the tune of “Old MacDonald” and the sixth-graders did a “Simon Sez” routine, lead by Coach Derico Cooper.
Cooper and second-grade teachers Terri Damron, Reine Wyatt and Marilyn Odom performed the faculty and staff’s tribute, a pantomime of an old Manhattan’s song, with Damron, Wyatt and Odom dressed in poodle skirts, thick glasses and fake teeth so snaggly that it was no wonder when Mapes drew the line at “Let’s Just Kiss And Say Good-bye.”
Mapes also got a crown and robe, a T-shirt signed by every student in the school and a purse, “for when you get tired of being the same old guy,” he was told.
On the playground afterward he was mobbed by the students and sprayed with silly string.
“The trouble they’ve gone to just blows me away. I told them I just wanted to get in the boat and sail quietly away, but they wouldn’t let me do that,” Mapes said afterward.