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  • Jim Townsend

Oakwood Outdoor Classroom Dedication Set for August 20th

Oakwood Elementary School will host a dedication ceremony for its new outdoor classroom on August 20th at 4:30 PM.

The outdoor classroom was a donation from Terry Lawless and his family in memory of his late wife, Vicki Lawless.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent William heath said, “The outdoor classroom started because of a generous donation to the district with the mission to recognize someone special. Vicki was an employee of the district and worked at Oakwood. Her memory will live on through an outdoor classroom. Since this donation we have received other donations of time and materials as well as some funds that were fundraised.”

Heath added, “I am really excited to have an outdoor classroom. Our kids need to spend more time outside and having the opportunity to learn while outside has been a long time focus for me. Teachers will be able to use this area for not just science but all subject areas. This will be a great addition to our district. I thank the Lawless family and all the volunteers that have stepped up to make this happen. A special thank should go to Mike Ward and his crew for building the gazebo that sits as the focal point of the classroom.”

Victoria Lee Donavan Lawless was born in Lansing, and graduated from Everett High School in 1969.

Speaking of his wife, Terry Lawless says, “Vicki was just 7 years old when her mother suddenly died. She was one of three children. Both of her brothers were younger. After their mother’s passing, all three spend time moving around from relatives, foster homes and St. Vincent’s until their father remarried.” Lawless added that Vicki, “was Irish in birth and in nature.”

Vicki’s last two places of employment were Dr. Gerald Brown’s office and then Portland Public Schools. Lawless said, “She loved working for Dr. Brown and appreciated everything he did for her including writing a wonderful letter of recommendation to Portland Public Schools when the secretary position opened at Westwood. Because of her love for the ‘little ones’ she requested for a transfer to Oakwood when the schools went through a realignment and all of the ‘little students’ where going to be at Oakwood. It was at Oakwood that Vicki ended her career due to Gall Bladder Cancer.”

Lawless went on to say, “Her retirement party was during a time between surgeries when she was feeling good. It was suggested that the retirement party be held at the Wagon Wheel. She quickly rejected that idea. Because of the circumstances she didn’t want a party but finally agreed to one at Oakwood during the week immediately after school. I will never forget some of the touching moments I witnessed. We were in the office waiting for school to be let out when a “little one” came if for his special gift as it was his birthday or something special. With all of the normal chaos plus our visit Vicki somehow focused in on this small child and then she was walking hand in hand down the hall to find his special gift. She just had that natural ability despite not having her mother to raise her. That is a quick summation of who Vicki was.”

Vicki’s love for children, especially the little ones, as well as her work at Oakwood were key in deciding on the location of the facility.

Lawless said, “We met with the new Superintendent in December of 2016. He told us about the outdoor classroom at the last school system he was at and asked for our opinion. We thought it was a grand idea and so the planning began. We wanted it to be close to a school for ease to access by the teachers, open but covered to the environment for a great learning experience, something that would last a long time, and a place where a variety of activities could take place, from reading to arts & crafts projects to environmental projects to allow an opportunity for the students to be introduced to our great

Michigan outdoors.”

Lawless also said, “There are many that have donated time and materials to take this concept to a reality. I do not want to name anyone for fear that I would leave someone out. It is important to know that this has been a community effort. Thank you to all of you that have helped achieve our goal.”

The Lawless family has planned for bagpiper Duncan Petersen-Jones to play during the dedication.

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