Sherwood Elementary School Principal Jerry Perlet is about to write a new chapter in his life.
On June 22, Perlet retired after nearly four decades of teaching for Montgomery County Public Schools, the past 13 years spent at Sherwood Elementary.
Whether it be sharing his popular “dragon stories” at an assembly or dressing up in a silly costume, Perlet will be missed by the Sherwood community.
Perlet said it was time. He and his wife Marie, who has been a permanent volunteer at the school, are looking forward to retiring in Florida and spending time with their grandchildren.
“We’ve really enjoyed working here, but we wanted to leave before we had to leave,” he said.
Perlet always has had an interest in writing children’s literature and hopes to publish some of his work. He already has written a children’s guidebook of Washington, D.C., as told from the perspective of mice living in the city.
He started telling the students stories about dragons, which became a highly anticipated part of quarterly assemblies. HIs original stories end with a useful lesson, such as the importance of family, friendship or cooperation.
“The stories are just fun, but I want to get them down on paper,” he said.
Maddie Hawkins, 9, said she is going to miss those dragon stories.
“In the stories, the mother doesn’t believe in dragons,” she said. “In the assembly at the end of the story, we all yell out ‘There is no such thing as dragons.’”
Her sister Ella, 6, agreed that she, too, was going to miss the dragon stories, along with Mr. Perlet’s eyebrows, because “they are funny.”
Kylie Ryan, 10, just finished fifth grade at Sherwood Elementary.
“The stories are really interesting,” she said. “I don’t know how he remembers them or if he just makes them up off the top of his head, but they are always really good and end with a mystery, making you want to hear more.”
Perlet said that what he will miss the most is the kids. He said he and Marie plan to “adopt” a school in Florida, so they can continue to work with children.
He also is gong to miss the parents and staff at Sherwood.
“I feel we’ve built a strong program,” Perlet said. “When I got here, the school wasn’t as good academically, but it’s really high now. We’ve developed a good school that is fun to come to.”
He also is proud of the addition, completed in August 2010, which expanded the main office and health room, added seven classrooms, an art room and several resource rooms.
“The building is in much better shape, both physically and with all the new technology that we’ve added,” he said. “With Promethean Boards and computers, we’ve become a very tech-savvy school.”
At a recent assembly, he was presented with a framed photo of students, and a “Flat Perlet” book, modeled after the popular book Flat Stanley. The students performed a song for him, spelling out Jerry Perlet instead of Mickey Mouse.
“I will always remember his reaction,” said Ryan, who made the book presentation. “He was crying because he was so happy.”
He is comfortable saying goodbye, because Deana Brewer, who served as principal intern at Sherwood for the past year, has been named the new principal.
“We are very fortunate to have her,” he said. “She learned a lot over the past year, and the school community got to know her.”
Perlet began in the county in 1974. He has worked at Potomac Elementary, Brookhaven Elementary, the central office, Water’s Landing Elementary School and Monocacy Elementary before settling at Sherwood Elementary, where his children had attended.
“It’s been a blast, and I have really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s kind of like leaving a house, you are sad to leave all the memories, but you are excited to move to a new house to make new memories.”
Melissa Popham, mother of Maddie and Ella Hawkins and current PTA president, is an alumnus of Sherwood Elementary, as is her husband.
“I was lucky to know the person who set the framework for Mr. Perlet’s style,” she said. “Tom Buck was the principal when Mr. Perlet’s children attended Sherwood, and he has taken a lot of the tradition from those years. I see a lot of familiarity, even though that was the ‘70s, versus now.”
She said Perlet is effective because he has the right balance between silliness and discipline.
“He has so much fun with the kids, but he knows there is a time and a place for it, and when it is time to stop because there is work that needs to be done,” she said.
As much as she will miss Perlet, Popham is confident that Brewer will continue to lead the school successfully.
“Change can facilitate great things,” she said. “A year of training under Mr. Perlet couldn’t get any better. She understands the traditions, and will hopefully be able to put her own flair on the school.”