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A former tradition at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School in Woodstock is restored by its new Principal

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - New Principal Deanne Froehlich organized a cleanup of Lewis Elementary Schools historic Outdoor Garden - which uncovered a weathered totem pole hidden for many years by trees and brush. It has been repainted and sealed, to last at least another 67 years. Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, on Evergreen Street at 44th Avenue in Woodstock, has an energetic new Principal this year – Deanne Froehlich.

"There is no moaning [in the morning]," she said during an October interview. "I pop out of bed every morning looking forward to going to work. I love what I do, being engaged in communities and education."

Every day Principal Froehlich visits a classroom. "Watching teachers teach and children learn is one of the most exciting parts of the job." She also has a door from her office into the main entry hall, and she keeps it open most of the time. The door had been closed for over thirty years, but now that it's open, it gives her an added window into the school.

Froehlich has worked for Portland Public Schools for thirty-one years – first teaching at Laurelhurst Elementary, then as Principal at Hayhurst Odyssey – a Focus Option school (formerly called a "magnet school") specializing in history – and at the Hayhurst Elementary general campus, nine minutes away.

Froehlich told THE BEE that she is happy to be Lewis' Principal in her twenty-first year in PPS administration. "This is a lovely, fabulous neighborhood school, with a community of really engaged people."

Ten years ago, while Principal at Hayhurst, she learned that the "Lewis Outdoor Garden" was historic, and has been at times a major part of the school. She sent a team to visit the garden to see what could be possible at an elementary school.

When she visited Lewis this summer with her husband to check out the campus, she said she was disappointed to see that this Outdoor Garden had become run-down and overgrown. The Butterfly Garden in the front of the school was equally overgrown and inaccessible – and had become a spot for "houseless" people to camp.

When she returned this fall she saw that the Butterfly Garden had been cleared and pruned. She later learned that a resident living across from the school, Sandra Shaw, had organized fifteen neighbors to spend four volunteer hours clearing the southern garden. Shaw says, "It [the cleanup] sets an example for students to be good stewards of what they have." It also made the area safer.

But the main Outdoor Garden, on the west side, remained terribly overgrown. Froehlich got some bids from landscaping companies, and found one that presented a good price. In addition, student participation in a "Garden Fun Run" at the school in September raised $5,700 to help fund the cleanup. Hillside Landscaping hauled 44 cubic yards of debris out of the garden area; and now, Froehlich comments, "The thirty-year old Outdoor Garden has been made ready for student opportunities and education."

Incidentally, in the process of clearing the brush, a forgotten treasure was revealed. "No one knew that this totem pole was here. It was completely covered in brush. It has been here since 1952," she remarked, during a private tour of the outdoor space on the west side of the school.

The Lewis School Facebook page explains how the totem pole was brought back to life:

"A big thank you to Henry Overbeck [a Lincoln High School senior], and many other Southwest Portland Scouts, for choosing Lewis School to work on [for] their Eagle Scout badge. New flower boxes in the front; the greenhouses have been repaired with actual shelves for growing plants; and the historic totem pole has a fresh coat of paint and sealer, to keep it looking fresh for many years to come."

Froehlich added, "With work by the Eagle Scouts and the landscaping company we brought that garden back to life."

Speaking of her new position at Lewis, she says she thinks it is good, professionally, to make a change after ten years in one school. "It re-energizes you, and you use your skills in a new setting. It is fun to grow with the community."

Lewis Elementary School also has an invitation for BEE readers: Mark your calendar for the Annual Lewis PTA Holiday Bazaar! Saturday, December 7th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be trees, wreaths, swags, baked goods, and lunch for purchase – as well as live entertainment, and student vendors selling their wares.


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