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Oakmont students rally for ailing principal

Sirovy leaves campus early following brain tumor diagnosis
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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As principal of Oakmont High School, Kathleen Sirovy could often be found having impromptu conferences at her car in the parking lot after the school day’s end.

Or she could be seen at Vikings football games chatting with parents and students.

“She always had time for people, no matter how long it took or what time of the day it was,” said assistant principal Mark Werlein. “Only a dire emergency would pull her away. She was just that welcoming. She was truly a principal of the people.”

Sirovy planned to retire at the end of the 2010-11 academic year, but packed up her desk earlier in the spring semester after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She is currently undergoing treatment.

Werlein heard the news one evening in April when he got a phone call from a colleague. Although Sirovy had been sick, he said, the news came as a shock.

“The whole school hurts for her,” he said.

On Monday, Oakmont teachers assembled a wall mural with ceramic tiles created by students and staff to show their appreciation for Sirovy’s 39 years of service to the district. Each tile includes a circle to symbolize unity and self, and a line to signify connectedness.

“(We) wanted to create something permanent to be placed on campus that represents all the years of Kathleen’s service and her lasting impact on us all,” said Shannon Martinez, who coordinated the project with fellow teacher Kim Richards.

Sirovy began her career at Oakmont in 1972, teaching physical education, health and speech classes. She also served as P.E. department coordinator, and coached gymnastics, swimming, softball and dance.

She spent two years as an assistant principal, and then transferred to Granite Bay High School in 1996 to help open that campus. She stayed there five and a half years before returning to Oakmont as principal in 2002.

Her husband, George, works as a special education teacher and athletic director at Granite Bay High School. They have two adult children.

During her tenure at Oakmont, Sirovy had many accomplishments, which most recently included overseeing the development of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, which is a prestigious and rigorous curriculum.

“That’s a feather in her cap,” Werlein said.

As a thank-you to their principal, students sent Sirovy flowers and made her a paper chain with each of their names, said senior and student government vice president Maddy Matson.

“She was always really sweet and had the best intentions,” Matson said. “She did what was best for our school.”

Former students are also sharing words of gratitude and encouragement via a “Smiles for Sirovy” Facebook page, which had more than 900 “likes” as of press time.

“Just wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers,” wrote 2010 graduate Tyler Kuresa on Facebook. “I also wanted to tell you that you made a huge impact on my life during my years at Oakmont. You helped make high school so amazing for me. I never got the chance to thank you.”

Steed Lobotzke, a 1988 Oakmont graduate and offensive coordinator for Wake Forest University’s football team, e-mailed Sirovy to thank her for her decades of service.

“My own wife, Kristin, taught high school English and I would see the toll that a day’s work would take on her,” Lobotzke wrote. “So I can only extrapolate the amount of energy you have used over the decades helping all those thousands of kids. I imagine there are some that you know you impacted, but there are countless others that you will never know that can still hear your voice in their heads.”

Former Antelope High School Vice Principal Rob Hasty has replaced Sirovy as Oakmont’s principal.

Sirovy’s colleagues, friends and family recently gathered together for her retirement party at Orangevale Community Center, and she returned to campus in mid-May to say hello. Werlein said she sounded positive and joked about the “hunky guys who administer the radiation (treatments).”

“She still has the same great sense of humor,” Werlein said. “When she shows up (on campus), you feel it.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.