“There’s one reason why we're here,” said Ken Bicknell, principal of B. Michael Caudill Middle School, as he welcomed the pubic to the new school’s dedication.

As he finished that sentence, the curtain behind him opened, revealing a stage filled with students wearing red or gold T-shirts emblazoned with the school symbol, a Spartan soldier.

“We are ...,” Bicknell yelled. “Spartans!” the students shouted in reply, many thrusting fists into the air.

After leading the students in the school cheer a few more times, the students took seats in the gymnasium bleachers for a dedication ceremony that evoked laughter at times. At other moments, participants fought back tears as they recalled the man whose name the school bears.

B. Michael Caudill, former Madison County school superintendent, succumbed Dec. 21, 2007, to complications from a recurrence of lymphoma. He had been superintendent since 2001, and had served as teacher, assistant principal and principal of Foley Middle School in Berea.

“As we dedicate this school to our community and to our kids,” Bicknell said, “we also remember a man who inspired us and reminded us that no matter how well we do in life, we always need someone’s help.

“And, no matter where we are or how far we’ve come, we should remember a lot of people had a hand in our success.”

Bicknell said he is reminded of Caudill’s optimism and dedication to children every time he leaves his office.

“I see Mr. Caudill smiling at me from his portrait, and I like that,” the principal said.

Both Caudill’s son Steve and his wife Lisa said he would have been embarrassed by having a school named in his honor.

“If he had known, he would have said, ‘I can’t believe you let them name a school after me,’” Lisa Caudill said.

Naming a middle school for his father was appropriate, Steve Caudill said, because, “The best times of his career were when he was a middle school teacher and principal.”

His father always concluded his prayers with, “Lord, watch over the children,” his son said.

The reference was not only to his two children, but all children, Steve Caudill said.

Lisa Caudill said he would be proud of the building, but most proud of its faculty and principal.

“Some of the teachers here had been his students and my students,” said Lisa Caudill, who also taught at Foley Middle.

Bicknell was like the couple’s adoptive son, she said.

Bicknell said he had done his student teaching in Mike Caudill’s class.

“He was my mentor and my principal,” Bicknell said, “but he also was my friend.”

Lisa Caudill said she sensed her late husband’s presence as she visited the school on a recent evening as boys played football and girls played soccer outside, while other activities were taking place indoors.

“He’s here,” she recalled saying to herself. “I expected to look across the field as she him leaning over the fence talking to people.”

Caudill’s successor as superintendent, Tommy Floyd, said the district was happy about the school, but is “even more happy about what will happen here for the kids.”

Bicknell said the school has enrolled 525 students, who are served by a “saffulty” of about 60.

“We don’t distinguish between faculty and staff, because everyone here is equal in what they do to help our kids,” the principal said.

The school’s motto is, “We care. We can. And we will.”

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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