Jackson Elementary School in Buckhead is mourning the loss of Lorraine Reich, 73, who served as its principal for nearly two decades.
Reich, who retired in 2016, died Sept. 5 from complications related to kidney disease. Tamara Guilday, who taught third and fourth grade at Jackson, worked with Reich at the school for about 15 years before retiring in 2012. She said her principal had a special way to deal with everyone at the school.
“She had a knack of being able to say anything to anybody and it was received well. She had a lot of insight and wisdom,” Guilday said. “If you went to her with a parent issue or a student issues, she had such experience that she could present another angle that you had not thought about, and it was a very valid and many times you left thinking, “I’m going to try that. I hadn’t thought about that.’ That’s why people gravitated to her. She just brought a lot to the table. She had a great sense of humor.”
Reich, who had bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in education, was a veteran educator when she arrived at Jackson as principal in 1998. She taught in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia, working as a teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal and principal.
"She had a way with people because they wanted to seek her advice and she was always honest. ... She always had her door open and with many teachers she would stay late, 5 to 6 p.m. and even 6:30 p.m.,” Guilday said. “Many teachers and staff would go to her with personal problems, professional problems. When she passed, it was a shock to many. She was so many things to so many people.”
Karen Evans, who served as principal at Brandon Elementary School in Buckhead from 2003 until retiring in 2014, met Reich even before taking the job.
“A couple of people at Brandon suggested I talk to her about what it was like to work at Atlanta Public Schools,” Evans said. “She helped clarify a lot of questions I had and helped me make my decision.”
While Reich served as a mentor for Evans throughout her tenure at Brandon, they also became close friends.
“If I ever had a problem at the school, I would call her and get her advice,” she said. “She talked me off the ledge many, many times. We had a very pleasant group of principals from the Buckhead schools and would talk to her all the time. We would jokingly call her the Duchess of Buckhead because she had been there longer than the rest of us and knew the ends and outs of all of it.”
Nancy Patterson, who served as Jackson’s PTA co-president along with Jennifer Cooper late in Reich’s tenure at Jackson, met the principal in 2002 when Meg, her oldest of three children, started kindergarten there and she began volunteering. Patterson’s other two children, Jack and Luke, also attended the school.
When she and Cooper were co-presidents, they would meet weekly with Reich to discuss any events or challenges coming up.
“She knew how to navigate so many different situations and consider all sides and viewpoints and come to reasonable and acceptable conclusions to keep all parties as happy as she could,” Patterson said. “She was really good at making teachers feel respected and valued.
“(She brought) just steady leadership and wisdom and (was) a person who really took the time to not only engage the parents who were involved, but (also) the parents who were new to the school and helping them feel appreciated and involved. The fact that she really knew the kids and spoke to the kids and loved seeing them grown and mature and change … (showed) she just had a real gift for what she did. She was an educator in every sense of the word.”
Reich and her husband Thomas, who were married for 52 years, lived in Sandy Springs while she worked at Jackson and moved to Clarksville in 2017.
“My mother always taught me to find the good in difficult situations,” her daughter, Meredith Pierard, said. “While we are devastated by her loss, we look for comfort in the legacy she leaves behind. The love and dedication she had for her family, coupled with impact she has made in the community, remind us how blessed we are to have had her in our lives.”
Reich is also survived by two other children: Jonathan Reich and Alison Divine, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A celebration of life service for Reich will be held Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. at Holy Spirit Catholic Church’s McDonough Hall, 4465 Northside Drive in Buckhead.
“I think she left behind a pretty amazing legacy of teachers and parents and students who respected her and respected her wisdom,” Evans said. “I was a much better principal because of her and I think many of her teachers would say they’re better teachers because of her.”