Playground honors principal of Presentation School

BRIGHTON—Over 350 parents, teachers, students and local politicians marked the close of a two-year project to build a playground for the children of Our Lady of the Presentation School at a dedication ceremony Oct. 25. The playground is named for Sister Mary Duke, SND, the principal of the school.

In the fall 2001, when planning an auction to raise money for the school, parents decided to put a portion aside to build a playground for the students. A concrete parking lot was the only area where the children at the pre-K through sixth grade school could play during recess.

"You can look at all the other schools in Brighton, especially public schools, that within the last few years have either built or updated playgrounds, and these parents wanted the same thing," said Michael Gilarde, a parent of two children at the school. "They're a very active and passionate group of parents. These people love the school."

Gilarde helped organize two auctions that the school held to raise money. From those efforts, parents raised $20,000 to build the playground. A special committee chaired by Una Simmons, a parent, worked last year with a local company to construct the three-structure playground.

This year, a picnic table, trees and benches dedicated to the loved ones of families at the school were added. The playground is used at recess and for the after-school program at the school.

"The children love it," said Sister Mary, who has been principal at the school for 20 years.

At the dedication ceremony, Sister Mary was “proud and excited” when she unveiled a plaque that named the playground after her. The plaque reads “Sister Mary E. Duke, SND, Playground—For her devotion to Our Lady of the Presentation School and its Children.”

Sister Mary said she had a slight suspicion that parents were planning to name the playground after her.

"Well I didn't really give it any thought, but I had an inkling that it might be [named for her] because the parents didn't say anything as it got closer," she said. "But I didn't know."

Sister Mary said she is honored to walk by the plaque bearing her name as she goes to school each day.