John MacNeil/Independent editor
Two weeks before the new school year begins, Stettler is mourning the loss of a man who was a central figure in the town’s education system.
Rod McElroy, the principal at Stettler Elementary School since 2005, died Friday of a suspected heart attack.
He was 55.
“It’s very sad news,” Clearview Public Schools superintendent John Bailey said after Monday’s board meeting. “My understanding is the doctor thinks it was a massive heart attack — very sudden, very shocking.”
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Stettler Funeral Home.
McElroy had been an educator in Stettler for 33 years, beginning in 1978 as a physical education and math teacher at William E. Hay Composite High School. He moved to the town’s junior high school — now Stettler Middle School — in 1986. He became vice-principal of Stettler Elementary in 1991 and was promoted to principal 14 years later.
“He certainly had been in the district a long time,” Bailey said. “I know he was highly regarded by staff and families in the school. Certainly, as a colleague working with him, I always respected his opinion and appreciated his friendship. He was a colleague, but I would say a friend, too.”
As recently as last week, McElroy was at Stettler Elementary, preparing for the Sept. 6 opening of school. His hands-on approach to education was reflected in his many years as a coach of school teams.
“I’m new to the district — I’m just starting my fourth year — but I certainly grew to have respect for Rod and his professionalism,” said Bailey, who had chatted with McElroy last week.
“I always found him to be very supportive. He had good ideas. He was always willing to talk about ideas. I know he cared deeply about the education of children and wanted the absolute best for them.”
McElroy’s survivors include his two adult sons, Chris and Pat.
“Despite his many professional accomplishments, Rod was most proud of his children,” his obituary reads. “He was the best father and spent many hours teaching, coaching, cheering for and driving Chris and Pat to their various sporting activities. He shared with them the glory of winning and the agony of defeat. Most of all, he instilled in the boys the importance of doing your best, being good people and making good choices.”
For multiple reasons, the Clearview board observed a moment of silence before Monday’s meeting.
“One of our trustees lost her father suddenly, right at the start of July, in an accident, so it’s been a tough few months for the Clearview family in that way,” Bailey said.
The board also discussed administrative staffing for Stettler Elementary for this school year and beyond.
“Obviously, the board is very saddened by this, but we do have a plan that we’re working on to make sure that, as Rod would have wanted, school will be a great event for all the kids in that school this year,” Bailey said. “That would have been something that he wanted — not just the kids to learn, but have a great time in school, too.”
“It’s fair to say that I discussed the plan with (the trustees) and they liked my plan. We have a plan to move ahead both in the short and long term.”
He said details of that plan would become available after discussions with staff involved.