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COVID-19 claims life of local middle school principal

Phillip Perry, the principal of Waco’s G.W. Carver Middle School, was hospitalized...
Phillip Perry, the principal of Waco’s G.W. Carver Middle School, was hospitalized Monday after testing positive for the new coronavirus. (Waco ISD photo)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 11:31 AM CDT
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A Waco middle school principal died of COVID-19 Tuesday morning in a local hospital.

Phillip Perry, 49, the principal of Waco’s G.W. Carver Middle School, was hospitalized Monday after testing positive for the new coronavirus, Waco Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said earlier in a message to the families of students and district employees.

Perry was the first person to die of the virus in McLennan County.

Kincannon advised the district's employees of his death in a recorded phone call Tuesday.

“We are very saddened by this news and want to express our love and let the family know that we will be thinking and praying about them in the days to come," Kincannon said during the call.

"I want our students and families to know that we will be providing counseling support as needed from our staff and our student support team. We will be sending out some information regarding these services as soon as we can."

The Waco-McLennan County Health District was notified of the death Tuesday morning as the Waco City Council was voting to extend the city’s shelter in place order and to postpone the May 2 city election.

“This is a tragic development, but not an unforeseen one,” Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“I call on all of our community to keep the victim’s family in their prayers and respect their privacy. Also, please continue doing everything possible to prevent further spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“As we know, particular sectors of our community are acutely at risk for serious symptoms that may ultimately prove fatal. We continue to take every action to protect and to inform vulnerable populations and we encourage our healthy residents to bear in mind the potential cost of the virus’ spread.”

Perry had served as the school’s principal since May 2019 after working as the school’s assistant principal from 2013 to 2015.

He served as principal of Fred Edwards Academy in Temple in 2015.

Perry is a Marine Corps veteran who has worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Aldine ISD, and the Lamar Consolidated ISD.

He moved to Waco in 2011 to work as an assistant principal at Waco High School for two years.

Perry was a 1989 Waco High School graduate and a member of the school’s basketball team.

He worked as a youth sports referee in his spare time, volunteering often at the Dewey Park Recreation Center.

One of his former Fred Edwards Academy students says he inspired her to graduate.

"I really didn’t have much hope left in me to graduate but he kept that going and was there every step of the way," Kristen Parnell said Tuesday.

Parnell says she stayed in touch with Perry after graduation, often going back to him for advice.

"He was another dad to me and someone I looked up to," she said.

"Principal Perry will be engraved in my heart forever and I will never forget him."

During the week after spring break, Perry was on the school's campus and at the district’s administration building and he was present on March 23 when learning kits were distributed to students’ families, Kincannon said.

Kincannon advised anyone who has been in close contact with Perry since March 20 to notify their healthcare providers.

“We are working with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, and they will be in contact with anyone who has been in close, prolonged contact with Mr. Perry,” Kincannon said.

“This news is tough to share. While we have all been affected by school closures and shelter-in-place orders, it’s a turning point to know that one of our campus leaders is battling the virus,” she wrote.

The district has a COVID-19 public information line.

The number is (254) 750-1890.

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