Medina teachers wore ribbons in honor of Evoy at graduation
MEDINA – There were nearly 100 Medina teachers at graduation on Friday night and they were wearing ribbons in tribute to Jeff Evoy, the district’s superintendent who died the day before.
Evoy was a big Notre Dame fan and he loved his Irish ancestry. Teachers made ribbons in Notre Dame blue and gold, with a green ribbon for Evoy’s Irish roots. It was a way for teachers to show respect for a man who was loved by the staff, said Joe Byrne, a Medina teacher and president of the Medina Teachers’ Association.
“He was truly a dream superintendent, who cared genuinely about people,” Byrne said today.
Evoy served as superintendent for nearly five years. Byrne has been the teachers’ union president for six years. They met every Monday to discuss district business, and soon became friends as Evoy asked about Byrne’s family and insisted on seeing his son’s hockey schedule. Evoy surprised the family by showing up at a practice one day.
One of Evoy’s goals, he told Byrne, was to have a big showing of teachers at graduation. Evoy attended college commencement ceremonies where many professors where their academic robes adding more grandeur and importance to the event.
Byrne said only about 15 to 20 teachers attended graduation before Evoy started as superintendent. Friday was the biggest turnout yet with nearly 100 teachers from the elementary, middle and high schools. They were there to support the graduates, but also to show respect for Evoy, Byrne said.
Friday, the day of graduation, tends to be superintendent’s day when teachers meet with the superintendent of schools earlier in the day. It’s also a day when retiring teachers are recognized at a luncheon.
“Jeff always loved the luncheon,” Byrne said. “He enjoyed sending off his colleagues. He would always give a great end-of-the-year speech thanking the teachers for working hard and getting the students across the stage at graduation.”
Teachers were in mourning on Friday during the luncheon. They resolved to make the ribbons and wear them during commencement. Evoy’s death at age 50 after a serious illness has hit the staff hard, Byrne said.
The Medina district raises student test scores, boosted the graduation rate and partnered with Lyndonville with some athletic and extracurricular programs. The district did that while reducing the tax burden.
Byrne said Evoy was a focused person, pushing for excellence. But he also wanted to connect personally with teachers.
Byrne wrote a short speech for the Teachers’ Association luncheon on Friday. He shared it with the Orleans Hub.
“Humble, genuine, putting others first,” Byrne said. “For anyone who knew Jeff Evoy, you know that this was who Jeff Evoy was. This is a man who tried his utmost every single day to do the right thing. Five years with Medina isn’t a long time, but his impact was great, and we know his legacy will live on for a very long time. You would never know that Jeff Evoy wasn’t born and raised here in Medina, because he loved us as if he were. Medina and this community were his second family.
“Jeff and I met on Monday mornings, almost weekly for the past five years, and yes, we discussed the business of the Medina Central School District. His door was always open. And behind that door, we worked together to make his vision come alive for this school and this community. That was our job. It wasn’t our job, however, to get to know each other on the personal level that we did.
“Jeff and I came from similar blue collar backgrounds and we shared our lives with one another. And as our lives joined in that office every Monday, I realize now how lucky we are to have worked with a dream superintendent: one who cares about kids, about us, about Medina. Not every school gets the privilege of having a superintendent like ours. Because he was a teacher, he understood us. He was not one of those aloof superintendents that other districts have to deal with.
“Tonight is one of the most special days of the year for our seniors. This day was special every year for Jeff Evoy. He looked forward to graduation like nobody’s business. When Jeff came onboard here, he talked about how impressive it was at college graduations to see professors walk down the aisles. Because of him, we have an incredible number of teachers from all three buildings who walk down the aisles before our graduation, and I know we’ll see a great turnout tonight, not just for our seniors, but for Mr. Evoy as well. We have that special memory of Jeff when he handed diplomas to his own children, Sean and Kelsey.
“If you were lucky enough to have his children in class, then it goes without saying that Jeff Evoy was beyond a great dad. And it didn’t take knowing Jeff on a personal level to recognize and appreciate the solid, unbreakable love between Jeff and Maureen. You knew they had each other’s backs. It is a rare thing in life in this day and age for two people to respect one another in love the way they did. Best friends doesn’t begin to cover it.”
In closing, you know how much Jeff enjoyed sports. He coached students and he cherished being involved with his own children’s athletic lives. Jeff asked me for my six-year-old son’s hockey schedule back in October when he first learned of his illness. He said he might stop by to watch a practice or game. And, you know what, he did. That meant the world to me and Aiden. How many superintendents would have done that? I know only one, Jeff Evoy.”