SIMI VALLEY : Students Honor Late Principal With a Mural

Their hands fully coated with bright green paint, hundreds of Sycamore elementary school students on Wednesday solemnly added their handprints to a mural honoring the school's principal, Robert Chall, who died last month after suffering a heart attack in his office.

The children's handprints formed the leaves of a sycamore tree painted on the front of the Simi Valley school. In the corner of the mural, a yellow star symbolizes Chall, parents said.

Also Wednesday, the school honored Chall by planting a pistachio tree in its central courtyard. Students and teachers gathered for an all-school assembly to remember Chall and decorated paper hearts with handwritten notes praising the principal.

Acting Principal Sheila Robbins said the events were designed to help students cope with their grief.

"They needed some kind of pulling everything together on this," she said. "It's really nice."

Parents had complained about what they saw as excessive bureaucracy standing in the way of the speedy completion of the mural.

But Wednesday, the parents said they were happy to help, applying paint to students' hands, then helping the kids scrub their hands afterward.

"It's here," said Colleen Duncan, mother of a sixth-grader and a fourth-grader at Sycamore, pointing triumphantly at the growing clusters of leaves taking shape on the school's cinder-block wall.

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