Freeman Sterling, Tyler ISD Board of Trustees Place 3 member and beloved former principal of Peete Elementary School, has died, the district announced.
Sterling, 64, died Thursday, according to a death announcement from Community Funeral Home of Tyler.
He retired as the principal of Peete in 2012 and was elected to the board of trustees in 2019.
School board president Wade Washmon praised Sterling as a good man and valuable educator, principal and mentor after his unexpected passing. Washmon held a press conference during which he expressed the pain that is collectively being felt by all board members after the loss of their colleague and friend.
“This sudden and tragic thing that has occurred has left us in disbelief,” said Washmon. “He was a kind and gentle man and we are so saddened and shocked that he is not with us anymore.”
Sterling, 64 was raised in Tyler and spent many years serving as a leader in the community. He attended W.A. Peete Elementary School, A.T. Stewart Middle School and Robert E. Lee High School, where he was an honor graduate and ranked in the top 10 percent of his graduating class. He began his teaching career in Tyler ISD at Rice Elementary School, however, he touched the lives of many Tyler ISD students and staff over his career with teaching roles at Jones and T.J. Austin elementary schools before returning to W.A. Peete Elementary School where he served as principal for 18 years.
Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford expressed his respect for Sterling’s legacy prior to the press conference.
“Mr. Sterling was so revered in Tyler ISD,” Crawford said. “From his time as a teacher and later a principal for the district, to his work mentoring teachers after retirement, and most recently as a trustee, his calm and peaceful presence was characteristic of the love he shared for our teachers, staff and students. His spirit of service will endure, well past this moment of grief.”
The board held the conference to express their collective grief over Sterling’s passing. No future plans for the board were discussed as the board mourns this unexpected loss.
When he announced his candidacy for the school board Sterling told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that he just wanted to give back to the community that raised him.
“It’s a way for me to give back to the community, teachers and students of Tyler,” he said in January 2019. “I want to make sure that the students are the focus of the community, and our educational system.”