Walter J. Mitchell Elementary celebrates 50 years
Semicentennial celebration features opening of time capsule
In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the Gemini 10 manned spacecraft launched, a gallon of gas cost approximately 32 cents — and Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School opened its doors to welcome its first students.
Past and current students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators turned out Saturday afternoon to celebrate the school’s semicentennial.
“Our school has a long-standing legacy for academic excellence and a strong sense of community that is unparalleled,” said eighth and current Mitchell principal Sabrina Robinson-Taylor during opening remarks.
Todd Wonderling said that when he came to Mitchell as a new vice principal, he was warmly welcomed by the school community.
“Once you’re part of the Mitchell family, you’re a Bulldog for life,” Wonderling said, referring to the school’s mascot. “We are all working together to continue the 50 years of excellence here at Walter J. Mitchell.”
Hugh Mitchell Jr. said it was an honor to be a part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the school named after his grandfather, which his own children and grandchildren attended.
Walter J. Mitchell was a Charles County businessman and editor of the Times-Crescent newspaper, who served as a member of the Maryland Senate from 1917 to 1934, and as a judge of the 7th Judicial District and associate judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals from 1934 until his retirement in 1941, Hugh Mitchell said. His grandfather worked to pass legislation authorizing the first public high schools in the county.
“May this school enjoy many more years of education for our children to enjoy,” Hugh Mitchell said.
Former teacher Jimmy “Mr. Mitch” Morton reflected on his 37 years at the school. Morton was a teacher at Mitchell from 1972 until his retirement in 2009.
“I always loved teaching here at Walter J. Mitchell,” Morton said. “We’re a family, a family that always comes together, in the good times and the bad times. The parents always supported our teachers, and it’s an awesome force in our community.
“It was very hard for me to make the decision to retire,” Morton added, “but after 37 years at the same school, I felt it was time for me to move on.”
Addressing the crowd of several hundred individuals, Adrianne Jennings, who served as principal at Mitchell from 1989 to 1995, said it was the largest birthday or anniversary celebration she had ever attended.
“It’s just a wonderful place to be as a staff member and as a student,” Jennings said. “I feel very honored to have been a part of Mitchell’s history.”
Also part of the semicentennial celebration
was the opening of the school’s time capsule, filled with mementos from 1966, including newspaper articles about the school’s opening, coinage minted that year, written speeches from the dedication and a cigar made with Charles County tobacco.
The time capsule was last opened in 1996, at the school’s 30th anniversary celebration, and a school yearbook and other items were added to the time capsule at that time.
Items from the time capsule were on display in the school’s B Pod. Students from each grade sang songs from the 1960s to the present, one for each decade in which Mitchell has been in operation. There was also a raptor demonstration, visits to classrooms, food and other events inside the school following the program.
Angie MacKay, Walter J. Mitchell 50th Anniversary program coordinator, left, speaks while the mistress and master of ceremonies, Mitchell fifth graders Kate Pendergist and Patrick Hernandez, hold up the school’s time capsule, which was opened for the second time in the school’s history.
Jimmy “Mr. Mitch” Morton, who taught at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School from 1972 to 2009, spoke during the school’s 50th anniversary celebration Saturday.
Walter J. Mitchell 50th Anniversary organizer Angie MacKay, right, holds the microphone for Hugh M. Mitchell Jr., grandson of Walter J. Mitchell, for whom the school was named, during anniversary celebrations Saturday.
Attendees watch as the La Plata JROTC perform the Presentation of Colors at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School’s 50th anniversary.
Current Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School Principal Sabrina Robinson-Taylor and Vice Principal Todd Wonderling spoke at the school’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The Nov. 10, 1966, issue of the Maryland Independent, with an article about the dedication of the new Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School. The article was one of many contents of the school’s time capsule, which was opened as part of its 50th anniversary celebration Saturday.
Books from 1966 on teaching science and mathematics, part of the contents of the Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School time capsule, which was opened as part of 50th anniversary celebrations Saturday.