PENNSBURY >> It began simple enough with the presentation of a card signed by the school board at its May 16 meeting wishing Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula a happy 50th birthday.
But within moments, the superintendent would be in tears, moved by an unexpected parade of gifts and musical birthday greetings performed by district students.
After presenting the card to Gretzula, School Board President T.R. Kannan asked if anyone else had anything to say.
With that, an elementary schooler walked up to the board table and presented the superintendent with a festively wrapped gift. Inside, Gretzula found a Pennsbury orange and black birthday hat.
“Are you going to make me wear this throughout the whole meeting?” he asked as he promptly placed it on his head bringing a roar of applause from the audience.
“I don’t know why she didn’t sing,” remarked Kannan, cuing the Pennsbury High School Falconaires to emerge from outside the meeting room, assemble in front of the board table and serenade the superintendent with “Happy Birthday To You” in four-part harmony.
As the superintendent was thanking the group for the “best ever” happy birthday song, student representatives from the board Cameren Cooper and Jason Turner made their way to the front of the meeting table to present the superintendent with a stained glass piece of art done by students in the high school’s art department.
“Isn’t that beautiful?” said Gretzula, showing it around to the board and to the audience.
“Is that it?” an already overwhelmed Gretzula queried, thinking he could return to the meeting agenda.
“I see more people coming,” responded Kannan, as a line of elementary school students filed into the meeting room, each wearing a t-shirt made especially for the occasion.
After serenading Gretzula with a happy birthday song, Kannan asked the students, “Do you have any birthday cake?”
With that, a team of teachers wheeled in several serving tables filled with cupcakes, each decorated with a toothpick in the shape of the number 50 as more applause filled the room.
And just when the superintendent thought it was over, a large gift was carried into the meeting room covered in a blanket. Underneath, the superintendent found a varnished wooden bench decorated with the Pennsbury logo.
“Wow,” he said as he revealed the handcrafted bench.
Finally, Kannan presented the superintendent with a handmade pen done in Pennsbury colors.
“This is supposed to be about the kids tonight, not me,” said Gretzula referring to an agenda highlighted by reports of student accomplishments and new curricular programming. “I am truly floored and cried three times already.
“I haven’t given a lot of thought about what 50 is supposed to mean,” he continued. “You just kind of take it one day at a time and do your best putting one foot in front of another. As you hit a landmark like this you’re supposed to look back and think about your friends, your family and what you’ve accomplished in your career.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the incredible support of friends and family,” said Gretzula. “As I look out at the audience and look around the table here, I could not be successful without all of you in my life. And a night like tonight makes me want to keep fighting for Pennsbury every day. Thank you so much for all the gifts - they are incredible. But mostly to the kids who gave up an evening in May.
“I’m incredibly blessed and really grateful for everything. Thank you for this honor,” said the superintendent. “It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”