Nothing says "We love you" and "We'll miss you" like a playful puppy.

Nothing says "We love you" and "We'll miss you" like a playful puppy.

Jefferson Elementary School staff and students bade a tearful farewell to retiring Principal Tom Sherwood at their end-of-the-year assembly Friday morning.

The staff surprised Sherwood with a parting gift — an 8-week-old, rambunctious golden retriever named Jefferson.

"I'm shocked," said Sherwood. "I did not expect this, and I'm really surprised that my wife agreed to it."

Shortly after spring break, Sherwood mentioned to the school's office manager, Cheri Paradis, and secretary, Sandy Vandagrift, that he wanted a golden retriever.

Paradis and Vandagrift secretly got the OK from Sherwood's wife and started puppy shopping.

"(Jefferson) was the last one in his litter, so we knew it was meant to be," Paradis said.

School staff and PTO members pitched in "$5 here and $10 there" to pay for Jefferson, his shots, a dog bed, a carrier, dog food, toys and a puppy mat, Vandagrift said.

Sherwood's wife named him Jefferson, although the school also had suggested Jet — its mascot — as a possible name.

Sherwood is retiring from a 33-year career as an educator, including 22 years as a primary teacher with Portland Public Schools, several years as a reading coach and vice principal with the Hillsboro School District and the last six years as principal of Jefferson Elementary.

"For me, this has been the highlight of my educational career," he said. "This has been the best staff to work with, the best students to work with and the best parents, as well. I feel like I'm ending my career on a high note."

Sherwood said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his six grandchildren, and, now, his puppy. Throughout his time at Jefferson Elementary, Sherwood kept a home in Hillsboro and would commute every other weekend between there and his place in Medford.

This fall, Rick Snyder, who currently is principal at Jacksonville Elementary, will transfer to Jefferson Elementary to take Sherwood's place.

At Friday's assembly, with his puppy wriggling in his arms, Sherwood wished everyone "an awesome summer" and reminded the students to "read, read, read."

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or Follow her at