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David Levesque, a hero at Pleasant Street School | Local News

LACONIA — It’s not every day that an elementary school principal receives a handmade poster signed by every child in his school, with a photo of himself dressed as Superman and his boxer Remy — the school’s comfort creature — dressed as Super Dog.

But the costumes couldn’t be more fitting.

At Pleasant Street School on Friday, classroom doors were decorated to honor, support and thank David Levesque, a friendly and galvanizing presence, and the pre-K-through-fifth-grade school’s beloved leader for the last decade.

Whether Levesque moves or stays at PSS depends on the outcome of a school board hearing related to a personnel matter. No further details have been furnished and no date has been set.

But the smiles on a band of kids dressed in red t-shirts for this year’s Sesame Street theme showed just how much they care to keep him as they surprised him with the poster, and a framed drawing by a first grader.

“I think I made this in two days,” said David Suittergove, holding his drawing of Remy, the school’s comfort dog, towering beside his master. “It’s Remy and Mr. Levesque.”

“Remy listens to him read, and David pet her at the end,” a teacher explained.

It was a day to give thanks and breathe.

Fifth grader James Giard read his statement aloud while the group posed for a photograph in front of the sign for Pleasant Street School. “He’s an amazing principal,” Giard said. “He’s been a great friend since I arrived in third grade and given me many opportunities to improve myself.”

Standing with the group, Levesque was humbled and moved. The pint-size ceremony and the poster with roughly 270 children’s signatures was an overwhelming sight, with a summary message in red marker: “We may not remember everything you said. But we will always remember how you made us feel.”

“For me it means the world,” Levesque said. “This school has never been about me. It’s been about the teachers, the kids and the community. I think Pleasant Street School is just a special place. The ability of teachers to take risks to benefit all our children has been so important to our success here. They have put Pleasant Street School and Laconia on the map.”

Over the years, the elementary school and its principal have received statewide accolades, including being chosen a New Hampshire School of Excellence in 2017, a Healthy School of the Year and Principal of the Year, said PTO member Elizabeth Gleason, who helped organize the event .

“He’s not about the test, test, test. It’s about the experiences. It’s how we feel about our principal. It’s always about the kids and getting our community together,” she said.

Inside, the gifts continued in the form of decorations on classroom doors — with a smorgasbord of student messages, including “Dear Mr. Levesque, You make me smile when you dance” below a photo of the principal wearing a “Smile Champ” medal, standing beside a small, beaming child.

Another featured a likeness of Levesque, with the invitation: “Pin the sneakers on Mr. Levesque.”

On another door, “Dragons are awesome. You are awesome. So you must be a dragon.”

Parents and staff cite the school and principal’s wide-ranging community efforts.

This year the children raised $800 for Gilda’s Club, by bringing their pennies and spare change from home, and emptying them into buckets for each grade. The children paid 25 cents to play rock, paper, scissors with Levesque.

A couple of years ago the kids donated 25 cents each for a piece of duct tape to tape Levesque to a hallway wall while he stood on a stool, another fundraiser Levesque designed. At the end, the kids took the stool away to marvel and giggle at their principal, a latticework of duct tape, suspended above the floor. “He was just hanging there,” Gleason said.

Two years ago, before COVID, Levesque dressed up as Mister Rogers and decorated the school’s stage to resemble the set for the long-running children’s television show. Gleason said Levesque dresses up for every theme day.

Every week before spring vacation, officially known as Pride Week, the school-wide fundraisers benefit local causes, including buying vests for police dogs and raising money for scholarships at Laconia High School, which present two graduating seniors who are going into teaching with $250 from the students at Pleasant Street School.

“He’s such an asset to this community,” Gleason said. “We see amazing things from this man every day. To lose this man from our school is mind blowing.”

It’s unknown to the school community why Levesque’s contract is not being renewed. Levesque has appealed the decision, requesting a public hearing.

Levesque and staff members declined to comment on Friday, but described their contributions to their school in a written group statement without names attached.

“As a staff we feel appreciated and supported every day. Our principal defines the ‘Portrait of a Graduate’ characteristics. Every day he welcomes students at the front door, often with Remy by his side. He’s in the cafeteria and may do a little trivia when students are eating… His catch phrase from him is ‘We are PSS!’ Whenever our PSS family might be feeling overwhelmed he reassures us with ‘We got this!’ — with the emphasis on We… Each year he collaborates with the guidance counselor and staff to choose a hero for the students to learn about together.

“We wonder if he sleeps… he is constantly thinking of another amazing idea. He initiated We Walk Wednesday and promotes family fitness. He was the first to take on the Granite United Way initiative with an entire school of students, empowering students to give back to the community at any age” through efforts such as Presents for Pleasant, Haircuts for the Holidays and PAWS bags.

“He is constantly working to improve himself and our school’s academic achievements. He was part of the team for instructional rounds at Harvard University, ”the statement said him.

Levesque started We Connect, a cross-grade level connection between teachers and students so kids would always have several adults to go to at school. As a result of stronger school connections, Pleasant Street School has witnessed a decrease in behavior incidents and an increase in student participation and performance, according to the statement from staff members.

“This is what every child goes to bed thinking: ‘Be kind, be safe, and be yourself because we are PSS.’ A mindfulness message at its best,” staff members wrote. “He always reminds us that we can do hard things. Mr. Levesque is an Ironman, and the students, PSS families and staff are proud to call him our ‘Principal of the Year’ each and every year.”

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