Ceremony at Olive St. School draws hundreds

Over 300 people attended a heartfelt ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, dedicating the new STEAM Lab at Olive Street School to the memory of former principal Isaac T. Nunes, who passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of the school year.

Porterville Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Nate Nelson, PUSD Board President Lillian Durbin, board members, Dr. Martha Stuemky, and former board member Richard Morris, and other dignitaries attended the dedication.

Current Olive Street Principal Elizabeth Torres recognized the Nunes family, the school and board members who sat in the front rows of over 500 seats arranged on a field outside the newly completed lab adjacent to the Olive St. School building.

“I’m honored to dedicate the STEAM lab to Isaac Nunes,” said Torres. “He always looked for ways to make things better for the kids, and was dedicated to it. Isaac strived to reach every goal, and alongside him was his wife Casey Nunes.”

Before the ceremony, community members were encouraged to write messages on cards  about Nunes, which would be attached to balloons and let go after the ceremony. 

“Our family is honored to take part in this dedication to Isaac,” said Casey, who spoke about how dedicated Nunes was to the students and the school. The lab was designed with students in mind she said. 

Juanita Nunes, Isaac Nunes’ mother, spoke next, and said, “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for honoring and loving my son.” 

She spoke of Isaac’s vision and how he taught so everyone could see, and during his comments, Nelson spoke of Isaac as a “conductor of a symphony.”

Torres thanked Juanita Nunes, and asked for a moment of silence in honor of Isaac’s memory, then all the cards and balloons were released in tribute by Olive Street teachers. As the wind kicked up on the beautiful balmy evening, the balloons floated over the trees up into the sky with a pale moon.

“That’s so beautiful. I know he’s looking down on us,” said Torres, and many people thought the same. 

As soon as the Nunes family and Mrs. Casey Nunes cut the ribbon on the newly dedicated STEAM lab, dozens of students ran up to get a first glimpse. Students who helped with the lab were allowed to see it, and the Nunes family and board members went in, with the community filing in afterward.

A memorial tablet in front of the new STEAM Lab inscription reads: “The Isaac Nunes Collaborative. Dedicated to Isaac T. Nunes, for this relentless commitment to Olive scholars, staff and families.”

Jill Stokes, a longtime teacher at Olive St. School, said Isaac would have loved the lab, with all the white boards all over the walls, monitors, tables and chairs. 

“He loved all the high technology,” she said. “That was his thing, and he made us all learn to like it or love it.”

“An educator was lost,” said Alicia Esparza, 16, PHS student. “And all the elementary schools did a great job of making sure he was never forgotten.” Esparza was a former Olive St. student in the audience at the dedication, accompanied by younger brother brother David, 12, currently  in sixth grade at Olive, who said, “Mr. Nunes was a great principal and he will forever be loved throughout the schools.”

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