Retired principal talks about history of school


By Regina Villiers.  Originally published November 10, 2004 in The Suburban Life, added November 14, 2016.

Mr. and Mrs. John F. Dumont were guests of honor of the Madeira Historical Society in October. A reception was held for them after he spoke to the group.

Mr. and Mrs. John F. Dumont were guests of honor of the Madeira Historical Society in October. A reception was held for them after he spoke to the group.

Billed as the monthly meeting of the Madeira Historical Society, it turned out to be more like a family reunion filled with warm and fuzzy feelings, a homecoming.

The Historical Society had changed its October meeting to a Sunday afternoon so as to feature as speaker John F. Dumont, former principal of Dumont Elementary School.  He was the first principal of the school and would be its only principal for the next 24 years.

He was hired in 1954 when the school was just starting to be built.  That first year, classes were farmed out to temporary locations, mainly to four rooms in the old Jefferson school in Indian Hill.  His own office that first year, he said, was a desk and a pay phone.

At that time, the school was called Miami Hills Elementary and Mr. Dumont watched as it grew and went up.  He and Marshall Sellman, the schools’ superintendent, would go there on their lunch hour and watch the school’s progress. He still remembers every room and alcove, its use, and why it was put there in the first place.  For him, it was a dream and a labor of love.

The school was finished and dedicated the next year, May 1955.

He called his speech to the Historical Society “Miami Hills 101.”  He started his talk with the need for the school and the building of it, and he covered its life and his life for the next 24 years.

The former principal has not lost step.  He’s the same and remembers it all. Give him a microphone and an audience, and he can keep them entertained for more than an hour, with plenty of stories.

After talking about the building itself, he talked about what makes up a school and the importance of support people.  In addition to his staff and certified teachers, he had great support people, he said, mentioning people by name and telling stories.

Before the program started that day, Mary McQuery walked in, and his face lit up like Cincinnati when the Bengals play on “Monday Night Football.”  Mary had been one of his bus drivers, and he never forgets a face.

He started his discussion of support people by talking about Carolyn Edington, his secretary.  Carolyn is still there and could, many of us believe, run the school by herself, with one hand bound behind her back.

He mentioned Ralph Fusner, a custodian.  He called Ralph the”point man” and told a story about Ralph and a lost dog.

He talked about Russ Ward, a policeman who kept “law and order” in Madeira, he said, and he told how Russ dealt with a car that was “causing trouble.”

He gave much credit to his PTAs and to his volunteers and talked about the roles they played.

But he talked mainly about the children and the various ways the school involved them in the operation of the school. He still remembers many of their names.  He talked about the traffic guards, the flag raisers, and the school’s store.  He mentioned my son, Kelly, who had gone there as a shy, overwhelmed 5-year-old.  Mr. Dumont gave him a confidence shot by appointing him the “School Weatherman,” who started off the day by giving the weather report.  Today, Kelly can speak up and interview the roughest, toughest NFL stars.

It was a time to reminisce for the former principal.  He talked about special times and field trips.  He talked about what a school is and should be.  He gave a tribute to Betty Zimmerman and her efforts as a reading specialist.

“We did not leave any child behind,” he said.

Several times during his talk, he interjected comments about the people of Madeira.

“I can’t say enough for this community,” he said, “for what it means to me.”

He’s a sensitive, emotional man.  There were times when his emotions came to the surface.  One of those times happened when he spoke of World War II and his wife.

Always and still, a ham radio enthusiast, he served in the Army during World War II as a radioman.  “The war gave me two gifts,” he said, “an education and my wife.”  His wife, Cleda, was with him that day, as always, and they will soon celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary.

Mrs. Dumont was also a teacher and taught home economics at Madeira High School for four years.  She quit in 1953 to stay home to care for their children, two sons and a daughter.  They have five grandchildren.

Another emotional moment came at the end of his talk.  He pulled out a small clipping, obviously treasured, which had been clipped from the Forest Hills Journal written when he retired Aug. 1, 1978.  He read the small piece in its entirety, without comment.  It merely said that he had retired and that his school had been named the John F. Dumont Elementary School, as a tribute to honor him.

And now, only the clipping is lest of that tribute.

But, maybe his legacy is more than a small clipping, a remnant of a school that once was.  His motto has always been, “Train a child in the way he or she should go.”

Maybe his legacy is in the hearts and lives of all the children he has trained in the way they should go.  That legacy can’t be ripped away, and it will live on in the hearts and lives of their children and on and on, down through the ages.  It’s a legacy that will last.