On Friday morning, December 13, Joaquin Miller Elementary’s former Principal Gail Copeland was honored at the monthly Flag Assembly with the renaming of quad and amphitheater area as “Copeland Courtyard.” Family members, BUSD administrators and Board Members and former colleagues of Mrs. Copeland joined all the children, teachers and staff of Miller Elementary for the program. Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy presented the school with a certificate from the City of Burbank, in recognition of the dedication of Copeland Courtyard.
Mrs. Copeland was Principal of Miller Elementary for 19 years, retiring in 2003. She spent over 42 years working in the Burbank Unified School District as an educator, including a total of 28 years at Miller, first as a teacher and then as a principal. Mrs. Copeland passed away on January 12, 2013, after a battle with cancer.
“Mrs. Copeland helped design this quad/amphitheater and it was her idea to have a monthly flag assembly to bring the entire school together to recognize students,” commented current Miller Elementary Principal Judy Hession. “The flag assembly was the perfect way to honor Mrs. Copeland for all of the things she did to help make Miller the wonderful school that it is.”
“Mrs. Copeland had the gift of bringing out the very best in people and inspiring them to want to continue to do better,” added Mrs. Hession. “Mrs. Copeland will be remembered for making a difference in so many people’s lives. I had the honor of working with Mrs. Copeland as her Assistant Principal at Miller for six years before I became the principal. She was the best mentor that anyone could ask for.”
“It’s kind of amazing that this courtyard dedication happened after all these years and it’s all because of the efforts of Principal Judy Hession and the staff at Miller,” commented Ms. Copeland, reflecting on the recognition of her mother. “As a principal, my mother put students’ needs first and had a special ability to inspire and empower her colleagues and staff to do what was best for the students.”
“She listened attentively and calmly to ideas from the staff and made decisions based on the input of others. My mother had that unique ability to listen, that was part of her DNA, her character,” added Ms. Copeland, who now teaches at Jefferson Elementary, the same school her mother first taught at in the beginning of her career with BUSD. “She was also very humble and a true inspiration to those around her.”
Ms. Copeland attended the flag assembly with her father and Mrs. Copeland’s husband, Doug Copeland. School Board members Larry Applebaum, Ted Bunch and Charlene Tabet also attended, along with several district officials including Dr. Tom Kissinger and Emilio Urioste. Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz attended the reception for the event, held after the dedication ceremony, in the two-story school’s foyer.
Miller Elementary’s business partner, Eric Foster, from the Burbank City Federal Credit Union was also on hand for the flag assembly, along with Andrea Canady, the former Director of Elementary Education when Mrs. Copeland was Principal at Miller.
“It was so nice to have so many people who worked with Mrs. Copeland at our flag assembly,” Mrs. Hession commented. “This is a testament of how much Mrs. Copeland is loved and respected.” Mrs. Hession also mentioned how proud she was of all the children of the school being able to sit attentively for the longer-than-usual flag assembly program.
“Having this plaque out there in the courtyard, with my mother’s name on it, is very important to me and my family as a reminder of my mother and her legacy,” Ms. Copeland said, as she related how deeply touched her family has been by dedication of the Copeland Courtyard at Miller Elementary.