Dana Road Elementary honors former principal Lassiter

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

Students, faculty, staff and parents gathered Thursday at the Dana Road Elementary gym to pay tribute to a favorite educator — Dr. Ethel Lassiter.

Lassiter, who was principal of Dana Road Elementary School from 2007 until her retirement in 2013, died Jan. 14 in Newport News, Virginia. She was known for her compassion and love for her students and education.

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Thursday afternoon, she was honored with song and memories.

“You couldn’t honor a better person today,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “You couldn’t celebrate black history around a person no better than this lady.”

Picking up on a student’s introduction that Lassiter was the first African American woman to be principal at Dana Road, he said, “She was bigger than that. She had a way of doing things and she was eloquent in force.”

He said he and Lassiter attended Sunday school as children, and recalled when she invited him to speak to children at the school, “Because if you can change, some of these children can change.

“At the same time, she wanted me to talk about the struggles I had and that we all have,” Flaggs said.

He said one thing Lassiter never said to students was “you can’t.”

“Teachers, parents, we need to stop telling our kids they can’t,” he said. “Tell them they can be anything they want. They are our future.”

Lassiter, he said, stood for the idea “that every child can learn. She took these students and lifted them and raised their interest in school. This school changed under her leadership.”

He called on school district officials to name a school after her.

Dist. 55 State Rep. Oscar Denton presented a House resolution honoring Lassiter, adding, “I didn’t know Dr. Lassiter, but if you lived in Vicksburg, you knew what the Lassiter family stood for.” He also urged the students to work hard and fulfill their dreams.

Denton’s presentation was followed by songs honoring Lassiter, including her favorite song, “Down by the Riverside,” and comments by former students. People also watched a video in which Dana Road staff and teachers described their experiences with Lassiter and how she helped and cared for them.

The students presented a final tribute to her, displaying in individual letters, “Gone But Not Forgotten.”

Lassiter was born in Vicksburg in 1947 and graduated from Rosa A. Temple High School in 1965. She graduated from Alcorn State University with a bachelor’s degree specialization in business education in 1969.

She received a Master of Science in Education with specialization in business education from Southern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in higher education and supervision from the University of Mississippi.

After retiring from Dana Road, she worked at Alcorn’s Vicksburg campus as lead consultant, EML Educational Consulting.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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