Warren Council had a passion for struggling students at Ripona Elementary School where he served as principal for nearly 20 years until this spring when he closed his office door for the last time.
It was in that office where he was known to tutor failing students, primarily in math, to ensure they would succeed in their classroom assignments. The main component seemed to be their understanding of the concepts. In recent months he focused on one particular fifth grade student who was failing. Council opened the door for the youth to do his homework every day before the student went home. The boy’s grades had been all Ds and Fs, but they were soon elevated to Cs with the principal’s help.
Warren has been a friend since he started at Ripona in 1994, coming from a Half Moon Bay school where he served as a vice principal. I have enjoyed watching his love for education play out for his students these many years. It wasn’t easy for him suffering through his wife Alison’s illness and her passing, along with his own back problems and other medical issues – but he kept on trucking even though he was hurting both mentally and physically. His students were his life’s passion.
In his early college days, he drove truck and even worked as a wedding photographer to make extra money to help with living expenses.
He saw the “kids” personally at his school, rather than seeing only the larger student body picture of classes. He always made it a priority at the beginning of every school year to invite the new boys and girls coming onto his campus for the first time to spend some quality moments in his office. He wanted to get to know them as well as having the new students realize their importance at Ripona and to him.
On rainy days he would challenge the seventh and eighth graders to a basketball game of Knockout in the school multi-purpose room. He was also known to get involved in an occasional game of Capture the Flag with the intermediate kids at lunchtime.
When the students would have a reading challenge and competition for the number of books they could read in a given time, Warren would offer his own embarrassments as catalysts, as prizes for their achievements in the library effort.
Over the years he has kissed a pig, milked a goat, danced the Chicken Dance and the Macarena as well as having a raw egg shampoo in front of students who gathered to watch the excitement on what was a very hot day in the sun. It may have caused some embarrassing moments, but it was all for the sake of education in his mind’s eye. He was making a difference for his students – nearly 8,000 kids during his tenure.
He was an administrator who usually worked through his lunch hour or at best would eat in his office. Canal Street Grill, however, honored him and his family by creating a Monte Cristo sandwich named after his late wife, “Alison.”
There were several Boy Scout Eagle Scout projects that were created on the Ripona campus under the watchful and appreciative eye of its principal. He was always very supportive of scouting and the character-building he witnessed.
Just prior to graduation last week, one eighth grade student went to Council’s front door and invited him to the commencement exercises. “You’re coming to my graduation!” he told him emphatically. Council was a special guest that night, seeing countless familiar grins coming from his students in their gowns with diplomas in hand.