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East Union students pull off surprise send-off
Principal John Alba reads the inscriptions in the back of the plaque presented to him by the East Union Leadership Team and Link Crew during a surprise program in his honor. Along with the plaque is a framed picture of the schools Leadership Team taken with their retiring principal. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Numbers are a gauge to measure one’s popularity and importance.

It was beyond a doubt that was the case at the surprise send-off that the East Union High School student body pulled on their retiring principal, John Alba.

ASB President and Leadership Team member Regina Dias explained in simple words the reason why the Lancers’ chief administrator for the last 10 years was well liked.

“It is not common for a principal to know as many people by name. Mr. Alba does. That goes to show the personal connection he has with the students at East Union,” Dias said before presenting the plaque to Alba in front of the student body, faculty, and Manteca Unified School District officials led by Superintendent Jason Messer and Board of Trustees president Don Scholl who gathered in the courtyard around noon on Tuesday.

“We all know his friendly face and can count on seeing him during our brunch and lunch every day or even in our classroom,” Dias went further.

Turning to the visibly moved Alba who was holding on hard to his emotions, she said, “Mr. Alba, you went above and beyond the call of a principal and developed meaningful relationships with your co-workers and students, showing us how committed you are to our experiences. It is difficult to imagine East Union without you, Mr. Alba, but we thank you for your many years of service and dedication to this school.”

Alba said he was “absolutely” surprised and overwhelmed by all the attention coming from the students and school officials.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said about the focus of his job as principal.

What is really important is that “they know that I cared about them,” said Alba who vainly tried to hide the tears as he listened to the East Union High Band play special musical numbers in his honor, and as he watched the group of students perform an energetic send-off cheer for him.

Lancers’ Link Crew also presented to their principal a framed photograph of the members, with Alba in the middle, autographed by each Link member.

“We’ll miss you and hope you enjoy your retirement. You deserve it,” said Link Crew member Breanna Perkins as she presented the framed photograph to Alba.

After the brief outdoor program, students and guests who included Alba’s wife Cindy, continued the celebration in the school cafeteria.