By Leslie Pugmire Hole • The Bulletin

The teachers cry. The kids cry. Parents cry and eventually even the principal cries.

It’s a bittersweet day at John Tuck Elementary School in Redmond: Dave Perdue, longtime principal, is moving on.

Several dozen Tuck students raise their hands at Perdue’s farewell assembly Wednesday when asked whether their parents had Perdue, 55, as a principal. Twenty-seven years — 19 at Redmond High, eight at Tuck — is a long time to dedicate to a single school district, but Perdue wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“As I leave, I feel good about what we’ve done here at Tuck,” he said. He’s also proud of his 14 years on the leadership team at Redmond High School, serving as assistant principal during years of tremendous challenge and change.

“If a person is heading into a storm, Dave’s the guy you want by your side,” said Mike McIntosh, Redmond School District superintendent. “He’s unflappable, steady as a rock.”

Perdue has accepted a job as principal of Alpine Elementary in Alpine, Utah, a state where three of his adult children reside.

For the rest of the school year, a retired Redmond district administrator, Tim Gleeson, will lead Tuck.

“I almost got rid of all my ties this year, thinking I didn’t need them anymore,” Gleeson joked at the farewell party. “I was just too lazy — and now see what happens.”

During Perdue’s tenure at Redmond High, where he started as a language arts teacher in 1987, change was a constant. The school lost population when Sisters High opened, then gained all that back and more as the community grew. It built its first addition but failed to pass two bond measures designed to relieve overcrowding. The school’s Latino population swelled and eventually the school was forced to add a veritable campus of 10 portable classrooms dubbed Camp Redmond.

Joining the administration team in 1992 was a tough transition for Perdue, who missed being in the classroom every day.

“I went from being a teacher most kids liked to being the disciplinarian and for my first five years as a administrator that was my role: the guy in the black hat,” he said. He tried not to take animosity from parents and kids personally and kept focused on the goal: helping kids realize their full potential.

In later years Perdue was the assistant principal in charge of curriculum, working under Principal Dan Purple, whom he credits with great leadership.

“Those were great years, we had a very strong administrative team and the kids could sense our dedication. I think it pushed them to dig a little deeper,” Perdue said.

“Dave is a very caring person; as a teacher you could go to him with any issue and he was calm and consistent,” Redmond High teacher Rebecca Barrett recalled. “He has a unique ability to step back and manage the situation, he’s such a quiet, collected kind of guy.”

When Purple retired in 2005 many people — includi,ng Perdue — assumed that as assistant principal he would step into the leadership role. So when an outside administrator was hired instead and Perdue was offered the principal job at Tuck, he quickly decided it was time for a change.

“Dave understands and embraces change and uses it to promote growth,” said McIntosh.

Never having taught or been an administrator at an elementary school, Perdue was replacing longtime Tuck Principal Linda Seeberg, who was moving on to Redmond’s newest elementary at the time, McCall, and taking a sizable number of teachers from Tuck with her.

“I was excited to think about the future, about whether I was equal to the job,” Perdue recalled. “I had butterflies because I knew I’d have to prove myself and I was following a bundle of energy — Linda is so outgoing and I’m more reserved — but from the beginning I was going to be who I am.” His first week at Tuck Perdue and his wife repainted Seeberg’s lavender office.

“I admitted to the staff that I was green about elementaries but I knew how to support teachers and give them the tools they need to be successful, and I think I earned respect when they saw I had their backs,” he said.

When Perdue took over as principal, Tuck was also undergoing tremendous change. Not only did it have a mostly new staff, but boundary changes caused the student population at Tuck to go from about 25 percent of kids qualified for free and reduced lunch to about 65 percent.

“We welcomed that — not that we wanted more needy students, but I believe in accepting the reality you’re given and not making excuses,” Perdue said. “What a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in ways we never did before.”

With the move to Alpine, Perdue is once again replacing a principal who had to leave before year’s end and, except for the abrupt departure from Redmond, Perdue is OK with that.

The butterflies are back.

“I’m really excited about this change, the new opportunities,” he said.

Perdue’s former mentor, Purple, sees Perdue’s profound dedication to family and his faith as an integral part of his role as school leader.

“Dave has very little ego; he sees himself as a servant and has an almost missionary vision of what a school can be,” Purple said. “He doesn’t spend a lot of timing pining for what could be or what was. His departure is a loss not just for the district but for the community.”

At the assembly, first-graders sang a song written for Perdue, telling him “in our school and in our hearts you’ll always have a home.” A girl presented him a painting of a bird leaving a nest, saying that is Perdue. Teacher Joe Swanson’s fifth-graders performed a popular song with customized lyrics and intricate cup-and-clapping percussion.

“We’re gonna miss you when you’re gone,” they sang.

By day’s end, Perdue and his wife are in a moving truck, heading east to a new adventure.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,