by Larry Austin
Veronica Connor Middle School Assistant Principal Eleanor Payne was honored this week by Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick for her part in helping save the life of one of her students.
Hardwick presented Payne with a certificate Wednesday acknowledging the actions she took in saving the life of a student who had collapsed in the school hallway on the first day of school Sept. 9.
Hardwick's award called Payne's actions that day an example of "outstanding commitment and dedication."
At the close of the school day Sept. 9, the middle school received an alarm on the computer that indicated 911 was called from a room. On the walkie-talkies, administrators heard that a student was down in a hallway.
When Payne and Principal Jerry Parisi ran to the scene, they found "right by the lockers there was a student who was non-responsive, purple and blue," Payne said.
Parisi said Payne's actions were "phenomenal."
"Thankfully, she jumped right in and took charge of the situation."
"I went right into auto-pilot," Payne said, and her recent training in CPR kicked in. Payne said that off and on over the past 20 years she's been certified in CPR. It was on Aug. 28 Payne went for training because her American Red Cross certification expired on Aug. 31, she said, a coincidence she called "just so surreal."
"We did two chest compressions of 30 each," Payne said. "After the second one, the student came to, the color in her face reappeared, she started to come around."
Payne said being at the right place at the right time, having the staff and the support there to work together in that emergency, were "what really had a positive effect on what it was that we were doing."
"Being an administrator, you have to stay calm," Payne said, adding, "For me, it's the safety and well-being of my students, my staff and my teachers, and that to me is my primary function."
Parisi said he's heard from a number of parents who have said that they feel safer knowing that there are people in the building who can respond the way Payne did.
Payne said she is humbled and honored by the accolades she's received since the incident, and the best reward is "the overwhelming response from parents, staff from across the state," some of whom she's never met, "saying 'This is why we're in education.'"
Payne said the reaction to her actions has been "very positive" from students as well. She said there was an incident where a teacher told a student not to chew on a pen. Payne said, "And the teacher told the student to please stop, 'I don't want you to choke.' And the student responded to her, 'That's OK, we have Mrs. Payne.'