Editor's Note: This article was submitted by the Solon Schools.
The Solon Schools are mourning the loss today of Martha Keeney, a beloved educator in the Solon Schools for more than 20 years, who lost her brave battle with colon cancer last night. She was 59.
Most recently, Mrs. Keeney resided in Bainbridge, but her ties to Solon and the Solon Schools ran deep. She was born and raised in Solon, and was a 1972 graduate of Solon High School. As an honor student at SHS, Mrs. Keeney was a majorette, played in concert band, and was a member of National Honor Society.
She received a Bachelor’s degree in music education from Mount Union College in 1976 and a Master’s of Education degree in guidance in 1982 from John Carroll University. She completed her coursework at Cleveland State University to become an administrator in 1988.
Mrs. Keeney began her teaching career as a music teacher in the Kenston Schools in 1978 and joined the Solon staff in 1989 as a guidance counselor at Orchard Middle School. She served as an assistant principal at Orchard and was named principal of the building in 2003. The next year, she moved across SOM Center Road to begin her tenure at the helm of Parkside Elementary School, where she served as principal for more than eight years.
As a tribute to Mrs. Keeney, the light in her office at Parkside will remain on until her funeral on Friday. “Martha was a shining light in the lives of so many Solon students,” said Superintendent Joe Regano. “Everyone in the Solon Schools’ community will miss Martha and her influence in so many ways. She was a friend, and treasured teacher, counselor and mentor to students and staff members alike. We will miss her presence and her commitment to excellence in everything she did.”
Mrs. Keeney was a consummate professional and a significant expert for the district in elementary curriculum. Her experience working at both the middle school and elementary level provided keen insight and a critical perspective in the development of the Solon K-4 educational program over the years, Mr. Regano noted.
“Martha was a guiding force in our curriculum development process, especially for our K-4 program,” he explained. “Her understanding of the pedagogy was second to none in our district. Some may not realize what a true competitor Martha was, but she was dogged in her pursuit of improvement. If she was on a mission, she definitely succeeded. That is why her battle with cancer has been so difficult for those who knew and loved her best. She was absolutely determined she was going to beat this disease.
“Martha had a deep, personal commitment to her religion and her family,” Mr. Regano said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Stan and her children and grandchildren as they deal with this profound loss.”
Solon Board of Education President Margo Morrow worked with Mrs. Keeney as a parent and a PTA member when her own children were in the Solon Schools as well as in her role as a school board member. “Martha began her career in music education where her vibrancy and ability to draw out the potential in each child was developed. As a guidance counselor at Orchard Middle School, Martha always had time and a smile for each student and parent.
“Martha’s strong background in curriculum and child development made her an excellent choice to be principal of Parkside Elementary School,” Mrs. Morrow noted. “She was an integral part of the continued development of our excellent elementary schools in Solon. Martha was a lifetime learner who continuously mentored her staff to bring out the best in each child. On a personal note, I’ve always admired Martha’s positive attitude and energetic spirit. Even as her illness progressed, she continued her focus on the main goal of ‘every child, every day.’”
The teachers who worked with Mrs. Keeney also are remembering her unbridled passion for her students and learning. “Martha worked tirelessly every single day of her career – even when she was not feeling well – to make decisions that were based on what’s right for kids,” said Tricia Petrie, who worked side by side with Mrs. Keeney as the curriculum/guidance counselor at Parkside.
“Martha was an effective leader and a problem-solver committed to the district’s mission of helping our students to achieve their personal best. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with her know that we improved our skills as educators so that students would always reap the benefits,” Mrs. Petrie continued. “Enjoying student success – whether it was academic or personal – was a privilege and honor for her. Her commitment to the whole child becoming a well-rounded and interesting person was her personal mission in creating the best possible learning environment at Parkside and beyond.”
Calling hours for Mrs. Keeney are scheduled for Thursday, December 13, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Church of the Holy Angels, 18205 Chillicothe Road, in Chagrin Falls. Funeral services will be held on Friday, December 14, at 11 a.m., at Church of the Holy Angels.