PITTSBURG — Lakeside Elementary students and staff gathered outside the school waiting for Principal Rhonda White, to arrive for a surprise on Tuesday.

Each of the 432 students at the school painted rocks, some with notes which said “Love you Mrs. White” and “You rock.” The rocks were used to line a pathway to a bench facing the school’s new butterfly garden — recently completed by third graders.

With the help and coordination by Lakeside Counselor Melinda DeGruson, Communities in Schools Site Coordinator Jennifer Falletti, teachers and students were able to keep the secret until that Tuesday when their principal arrived at the school with a lawn full of students clapping.

“I’m so honored to be here and be your principal and be with all these people every day,” she said with tears to the students and staff. “I love you very much.”

DeGruson said White deserved a special day where the students can show thanks, with the painted rocks, pathway, flowers and a binder filled with kind notes from the students. However, it wasn’t that easy.

“Sharon and I wanted to have a day for Rhonda but she’s kinda always here,” she said. “Rhonda is a super leader in this school and she inspires us to see the beauty in everything.”

“It has to be spectacular to match what Rhonda does for us.”

Even White’s husband was in on the surprise, encouraging her to stay home for just a few more minutes as everything was constructed on the lawn that morning.

It also happened to be School Principals Day, Falletti said, and everything they planned worked out on that very day.

White said she was left speechless by the gesture.

“I’m speechless to think about the time, energy and love that went into something like this,” White said. “The school is filled with students and staff that are loving and kind and just the best students and staff in the world.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.