More than 90 percent of students inCulbreth Middle Schooland Phillips Middle School, scored at or above grade level in last year's tests. The award came Wednesday, but the news of it came last May, in time for Principal Alton Cheek to learn of it before his death three months later.
"When he found out that the school had done well enough to be a school of excellence, he was very pleased about that," says Richard Pierce, principal at Phillips Middle School.
Cheek's family shared in the music and the memories. Thursday was a day to celebrate Alton Cheek and the excellence he inspired.
"It was perfect. I think my father was looking down and being very proud and smiling upon everybody for this," says Lynn Cheek, daughter of Alton Cheek.
There were many smiles, but the grieving is far from over.
"I'm kind of sad, but I'm also happy that we can celebrate his life and just be happy for everything he did for us," says student Lauren Stapleton. "I know it's supposed to be a celebration, but I just can't help thinking about missing him. It's really sad."
Cheek was also known for his stuffed animal collection on display in his office. The school donated the collection along with other stuffed animals given by students to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill.