Our People of the Century
Thomas Lane IV:
Educator Still "On the Job"
Retirement has been anything but for Bridgeton School Superintendent Thomas Lane IV.
He’s kept busy consulting with other school districts and mentoring principals and teachers – sharing the know-how gathered during his half-century as an educator.
After a year of teaching in Philadelphia, Lane came to Cumberland County in 1952 to teach at Gouldtown Elementary School in Fairfield Township. Seven years later he became principal of the school and, from 1962-65, was principal of three different elementary schools in Bridgeton.
He then directed federal programs in the Bridgeton School District for more than a decade and moved on to an assistant superintendent role.
In 1987, Lane became Bridgeton’s first black superintendent, the position from which he retired six years ago.
“Even today, in his retirement, he has never forgotten those of us in the school district,” says Karen Buono, secretary of the superintendent’s office. “He pops in for a visit to chat about the latest happenings in our lives.”
An avid storyteller and frequent contributor to Black History Month presentations, Lane’s penchant for poetry often found appreciative subjects among the district staff.
“On special occasions, he could be heard reading someone’s life history in a poem,” said Buono, whom Lane hired 20 years ago.
Buono remembers Lane’s hard work and dedication for the betterment of Bridgeton’s schools. Through his efforts, Bridgeton High School got a statue of their bulldog mascot for the lobby, Buono said.
When Lane looks back, he takes pride in the pre-school programs he instituted in the mid-'60s under federal guidelines.
“The sooner we get kids, the sooner we can bring about a change,” he said of the programs that were the forerunners of today’s Abbot programs.
Lane and his wife, Cordelia, raised six children, all college graduates. A leader in his community, church and profession, his awards include Outstanding Educator in American and an induction into the Black Hall of Fame.
“I respect and admire him for he is someone special,” Buono said. “He’ll never be forgotten by those lives he touched.”
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