By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Since 1949, Don Rappold has occupied some form of a school hallway. Whether as a student or an administrator, the Lewiston-Porter assistant superintendent has spent every summer preparing for the opening of school each September.
His tradition will come to an end when he exits Lew-Port's district offices Friday. Retirement has other plans for Rappold.
"My wife (Lydia Rappold) is retiring July 15," he said. "We have a lot of family all over the country we need to visit, and one in Japan."
Tuesday's board meeting, Rappold's 360th and final time at the district's decision table, featured several tributes to the retiring business manager from parents, teachers, principals, school board members and Superintendent R. Christopher Roser.
Roser smiled fondly, High School Principal Paul Casseri choked up, board member Keith Fox joked as he shared a story. But the best moments came from Rappold himself, as he deadpanned with his audience, which included three other district retirees, themselves honored for their years of service.
"This isn't the Don Rappold funeral here," he said. "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm still on this side of the grass."
There's a saying Rappold has become famous for within the walls of Lew-Port. He tells employees and students they need to "bleed green," a way of saying there must be pride in the work they're doing and pride in the school they call home.
The result has sprung the district high on the Buffalo Business First annual rankings the last two years, finishing as the top-rated Niagara County district, the top Niagara County high school and a reputation to accompany such rankings.
"We would not be Lewiston-Porter, we would not have the reputation Lewiston-Porter has without Don Rappold," he said. "He's done his job and he's done it well."
One of the funnier Rappold stories shared Tuesday involved a car door and a foot. Fox, who has served on the district's school board since 2007, said he was trying to get into a vehicle the assistant superintendent was driving to pay a visit to the newly redesigned athletic fields behind the high school.
But Fox said he never made it into the vehicle before the car started to pull away. The result was a tire rolling over Fox's foot.
"It didn't hurt me," Fox said to laughs from the audience. "I was getting into the car but I didn't get in all the way. It happens."
Last month as he was preparing to leave, Rappold, who has served as the district's human resources manager, its financial manager and all-around go-to guy for answers, distributed a list of all of the school board members with whom he's worked. Tuesday, he passed around a list of administrators and union representatives he's dealt with.
Names like former Lewiston-Porter United Teachers Union President Tom Yots and Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Alan Truesdale brought smiles to his face as he read through some of the names.
In the end, Rappold said his only hope is the influence he's had on the district is as strong as the one the district has had on him.
"I just hope I've had some impact on the students, the staff at Lew-Port," he said. "Because I know Lew-Port has had an impact on me. I've really enjoyed it here, even when it was tough."Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.