Pacheco High announced at halftime of Friday’s football game against Central Catholic that the school’s main gym is being named after cancer-stricken principal Brett Lee, who stepped down in January to fight the disease.
Interim principal Grace Taylor made the announcement at halftime and presented Lee’s son, Taylor Lee, and his parents Arthur and Theda Lee with a plaque bearing the announcement, since Brett Lee couldn’t make it to the game.
“It’s a great honor,” said Taylor Lee, who graduated from Pacheco last spring. “It shows that the community cares about my dad, and it means that the community has come together, and I think that’s a very important thing, that the community comes together.”
Lee was named principal of Pacheco High before the school existed, and ushered the institution through its first years.
“Brett is very much loved by this staff, and the students,” an emotional Grace Taylor said. “And I think we were all looking for ways to honor him and his commitment to being student-centered, and his commitment to us being creative to ensure all of our students are achieving their potential. So he’s inspired us, and even though he’s been absent from our campus, his spirit, and the foundation of what we believe here is still alive and thriving.”
Since Lee’s announcement, the phrases Panther Strong and Brett Strong have become commonplace on the Pacheco campus. The gym that now bears his name hosts volleyball, wrestling and basketball, and also played host to Lee’s smile and warm greetings over the last few years.
“He’s the world to me. He means everything,” Taylor Lee said. “It’s been amazing. He’s always cracked some good jokes. He always makes everyone laugh, and he keeps the household a happy place. He’s always upbeat.
“He’s had a good attitude, and he’s fighting the whole way.”
The idea for naming a facility after the principal came from athletic director Charlie Pikas, according to Grace Taylor.
“When we were grieving his loss (from the campus), Charlie was grieving, too, but he was also looking for ways to help us have a physical, tangible way to honor him,” Taylor said. “So he really spearheaded this. Once our school board got involved, they were very much – I want to say it was unanimous, because they’ve also been touched by the work that he’s done, and because they were with him as he was building this campus.”
And while Taylor holds the position for now, it’s telling that the school still lists Lee as principal and Taylor as acting principal.
“He is a fighter. He’s not quitting,” Grace Taylor said. “I was able to spend some time with him today, and with his wife. He’s still amazing. He’s still smiling. He still has a sense of humor, and he’s very appreciative, and he’s a very humble man. And I think he’s a level-five leader. He’s the type of leader that he’s not trying to promote himself. He just walks with humility.”