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Dr. Daniela Small-Bailey, principal of the Englewood Public School District, died in car accident in South Africa; vigil held on Wednesday

Dr. Daniela Small-Bailey, principal of the Englewood Public School District, died in car accident in South Africa; vigil held on Wednesday
Dr. Daniela Small-Bailey, principal of the Englewood Public School District, died in car accident in South Africa; vigil held on Wednesday

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (WABC) – A New Jersey community mourned Wednesday evening, days after a school principal was killed in a tragic traffic accident overseas.

The building of Dr. John Grieco Elementary School was hung with pictures of the late principal’s smile.

Reverend Dr. Daniela Small-Bailey, the beloved superintendent of the Englewood Public School District, was killed in a traffic accident last week. The collection of broken hearts gathered at the school was a testament to the nearly two decades she dedicated to the community.

“She was someone who understood us when we were going through a tough time. Her door was always open,” said teacher Dr. Claudette Peterkin.

On Wednesday evening they held the door open for her.

Several hundred people took part in a vigil in the scorching heat, wiping bitter tears mixed with salty beads of sweat from their eyes.

Current students mourned as former students mourned. Parents, teachers, and sisters from Small-Bailey’s sorority were choked with pain.

Dr. Small-Bailey and her eldest son were killed in a head-on collision in South Africa on July 4 while she was visiting her two grandchildren. She leaves behind two young children in New Jersey.

“Keep living. Keep living, way up in the sky,” said Tanika Williams.

Williams is Small-Bailey’s youngest sister and best friend.

“She’s from Trinidad. I go back to my mother. My mother came from Trinidad with practically nothing, but we grew up and she taught us that education changes everything,” Williams said. “So we know she instilled that in her students. Education is important and it changes your life.”

Former assistant principal Dr. Noel Gordon said Dr. Small-Bailey would stand in the hallway and greet each student with a smile or a hug.

“Then she went into her office, then she left her office and walked every floor, looked at every classroom and talked to every teacher,” Gordon said.

“She didn’t do anything that wasn’t outstanding. She preached excellence,” said Small-Bailey’s college classmate, the Reverend Eyesha Marable. “Even during the pandemic, she did an outstanding job. She graduated during the pandemic. She wrote a book during the pandemic.”

Dr. Small-Bailey was a woman who broke the rules when it was in the public interest and who called a spade a spade whether you liked it or not. She was uncompromising.

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