Hamilton High School staff and alumni association members joined with friends and family of James Q. Bacchus in a celebration of his retirement and his 69th birthday last Thursday (July 17). (Photo: Shirley Jackson)

James Q. Bacchus’ three-year run as principal of Hamilton High School ends with his retirement from Shelby County Schools on Wednesday (June 30).

Hamilton High School staff, alumni association members, friends and family took note of his planned exit during an appreciation event that doubled as a celebration of his 69th birthday on June 17.

Alisha Kiner, instructional leadership director with Shelby County Schools, was on hand to help paint the picture that reflects Bacchus’ service, describing him as a lifelong learner.

“He puts himself in a position to hear and to listen,” Kiner said. “He takes the posture of a learner and a team player. His presence on our team means the world to me; just the way he engages with us and shares his wisdom without flaunting it. … He treats me like I’m smart.”

Bacchus, who worked in Memphis City Schools and then Shelby County Schools for 30-plus years as an educator, coach, assistant principal, principal and chief of student support, took the reins at Hamilton High in July 2018.

With his wife, Ceceilia, alongside, exiting Hamilton High principal James Q. Bacchus recounts elements of his education journey in Memphis. (Photo: Shirley Jackson)

“My three years here is like reuniting with the students I worked with at Corry (Junior High) for 13 years teaching,” he said before adding that “to come back and be their children’s principal was quite an honor.”

The Hamilton High Alumni association presented him with a plaque in recognition of his leadership, commitment and guidance. A ribbon-cutting ceremony served to reveal a portrait that will hang on Hamilton’s Wall of Principals in the Alumni Room.

This photo of James Q. Bacchus will hang on Hamilton High School’s Wall of Principals. (Photo: Shirley Jackson)

Showered with other gifts, plaques and congratulatory messages from friends, family and staff members, Bacchus, who was named (in 1998) as the first African American to serve as principal at Whitehaven High School, took it all in with obvious appreciation.

Then he shared some reflections.

Looking back on an academic year marked by the pandemic and virtual learning, Bacchus said, “…education will not be the same, but we will move forward as a result of it. And, hopefully, we will get our families and children to move along with us. We know that our children missed our touches.”

Born in Hernando, Mississippi, Bacchus once served as superintendent of schools in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was Hamilton’s assistant principal from 1995 to 1998.

“It hurts my heart that children don’t grasp what they should grasp and know why and what we are doing for them,” he said, framing Hamilton as “the constant thing in their lives” and emphasizing the need for consistency of effort every day in working with students.

“Don’t take the little things they do personally because they don’t know,” he said.

Bacchus introduced Blanchard Diauva (currently vice principal) as Hamilton’s next principal, presenting him with the “key” to the school.

After a three-year run at Hamilton, James Q. Bacchus is turning over the “key” to a new principal, Blanchard Diauva (left), who now is vice principal. (Photo: Shirley Jackson)

“Hamilton is going to be in great shape,” Bacchus said. “I’m so proud of him (Diauva) and he knows I’m just a phone call away.”

The “key” presentation caught Diauva by surprise.

“Thank you, thank you! Oh my God! I did not expect this. I really have nothing prepared, but just thanks again Principal Bacchus. I’m not perfect, but I truly have grown to love the people here. You guys welcomed me with open arms,” said Diauva.

“People are so genuine, and I promise you, I’m going to do everything to return the same love to all of you and our kids. And, I promise, I’m here to listen. I’m here to help you. … I really want us to succeed. I know we will succeed. …I can’t wait to work with all of you.”