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Cavanaugh feted for six years' service

Friday, June 13, 2003
By Eunice Kim / Staff Writer
Watertown Tab & Press

Friends, family and colleagues honored Watertown High School Headmaster James Cavanaugh in a surprise send-off Wednesday afternoon.

Cavanaugh, who became headmaster in 1997, is retiring from his post at the end of this month due to health issues. Before coming to Watertown, Cavanaugh worked at Medford High School and Scituate High School.

"You are a true gentleman, and you've done a fantastic job over the last six years," said former assistant director of facilities and transportation Paul Anastasi.

Cavanaugh's current and former colleagues attended the bittersweet event, which was organized by high school secretary Ellen Maggio and staff. Colorful balloons and old black and white photos of Cavanaugh decorated the high school cafeteria where the event was held.

Speaker after speaker went up to the podium and spoke about Cavanaugh, as he sat next to them in a wooden chair, which was given to him as a gift.

"He's been a person that I have personally admired," said Town Council President Clyde Younger, adding that Cavanaugh brought the high school community together. "He's a person you can easily love."

Younger said he was saddened that Cavanaugh's multiple sclerosis has shortened his career in Watertown.

Many expressed their gratitude to Cavanaugh and recounted their old memories of him.

Leo Liatsos, former vice principal of Scituate High School, recalled a golf outing when Cavanaugh hit the ball into a parking lot, shattering the windshield of a vehicle. As other golfers laughed, Liatsos said Cavanaugh wondered aloud, "What do you think the statistical probability is of that happening?"

Detective Dave Collins and Officer Jamie O'Connor, who has worked in the high school for two years, presented Cavanaugh with a shirt from the Irish American Police Association, an insulated cup holder for his Diet Coke, and an Irish walking stick. Cavanaugh also received gift certificates for Barnes & Noble, a nursery and restaurants.

"I'm going to miss this so very, very, very much," said Cavanaugh, who received a standing ovation upon taking the podium.

The Somerville resident said he was leaving a little sooner than he would have liked, and while he did not want a celebration for himself, he said he appreciated the effort and love that went into the event.

"It's absolutely amazing that people can surprise me," he said.

Cavanaugh thanked his wife Jeanne, whom he called his soul mate, and children Kathy and Tom.

"It's a blessing in my life that I've gotten to do what I love most..." he said, adding that he has worked with great faculty in Watertown, Scituate and Medford.

"Here in Watertown, it has been a fantastic experience...I have loved every single minute of it," he said.

Cavanaugh called the high school's relationship with the police "wonderful," and said Anastasi was "just unbelievable." He said the genuine concern people have for him was "really magnificent."

"I love you all so much," he said.

Other speakers included Superintendent Sally Dias, High School Housemaster Mike Nofsker, Police Chief Edward Deveau, Director of Guidance and Testing Diane Boettcher, head of the high school math department Charles Garabedian, Director of Technology Alan Epstein, and School Committee members Eileen Hsu-Balzer and John Bartley.

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