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Delaware Mourns Beloved Wilmington Principal Dr. Terrance Newton

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Adobe Stock / Sengchoy Int

The Red Clay School District and the community statewide are mourning the death of a beloved Warner Elementary School principal who helped shape the lives of many young students.

Dr. Terrance “Newt” Newton, 47, died this week from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash March 18 in Newark.

Newton was known for his skills not only as an educator but also as a barber. He set up shop at the school to give young men haircuts and boost their self-esteem. His innovative approach to nurturing students was recognized often over the years, earning Newton airtime on local and national news channels and even on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2020.

Newton, a native of Wilmington, is survived by his wife, Paula.

Deena Nekoukar of Wilmington remembers Newton as a positive leader and role model for students. “He had a huge personality,” she says.

Her son, Ezra, attended Henry B. duPont Middle School, where Newton served as assistant principal prior to taking on the principal role at Warner Elementary.

Nekoukar remembers Ezra’s first day of sixth grade. “He was very nervous,” she says, so she took her son over to Newt and asked Newt to take care of him.

“He really did take care of him, too. He would send me pictures of Ezra eating lunch with friends, and we often connected over the years,” she says.

Ezra, now 18, is a senior at Alexis I. duPont High School on his way to college. Nekoukar was planning to call Newton with the news once Ezra decided which school he’d attend.

“He was always pushing me beyond my comfort zone. He made me comfortably uncomfortable because he knew I needed it,” he says.

At his eighth-grade graduation, Ezra remembers giving Newton a big hug. “It was a great moment.”

He points out that Newton never stopped working for his students. “Newt knew what it was like to work hard. He connected with students and made everyone want to be better. He had a big on impact on so many students.”

A statement on Warner Elementary’s Facebook page reads, “The loss our community is experiencing is tremendous. At Warner, WE will keep Dr. Newton’s vision, spirit, and mission alive. WE will remain Thunderbird Strong. Dr. Newton will always be our principal.”

The school is encouraging students to meet with counselors and is asking the community to share memories of Newton. Family and friends are posting on social media using #hisnameisnewt.

The hashtag comes from a song created in Newton’s honor. In a video posted on Facebook after his accident, Warner Elementary students chant:

“His name is Newt! His name is Newt! I didn’t wanna tell ya, but his name is Newt!”

terrance Newton

Photo courtesy of the City of Wilmington Mayor’s Office

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced this week that he will work with city leaders and Red Clay School District to rename a portion of West 18th Street, from Franklin to Van Buren streets, parallel to Warner Elementary, in honor of Newton. Red Clay school administrators will also rename Warner Elementary’s library, the Dr. Terrance Newton Library Center.

“Terrance Newton escaped the violence that still plagues too many of Wilmington’s streets and knew better than most the importance of letting children know that they are loved and valued,” says Mayor Purzycki.

Calling Newton a “passionate advocate and inspirational leader,” Purzycki says the loss will be felt both in the schools and in the community.

Red Clay School District Superintendent Dorrell Green calls Newton “a true advocate for students and a genuine supporter of his staff.”

“Newt’s high energy, infectious personality and passion for his school community was unparalleled,” says Green.

Gov. John Carney visited students and teachers at Warner Elementary following Newton’s death and shared the following statement:

“This is such a heart-wrenching loss for our community. Dr. Newton was everything a school leader should be, and more. He was selfless, dedicated, enthusiastic and cared so deeply about his students and staff. That was clear every time you walked in the front doors of Warner Elementary. I was inspired by him, and will continue to be, every time I see his students walking to and from school, just a few blocks from my house. He will be greatly missed.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons also expressed his sadness over Newton’s death in a statement:

“I’m heartbroken by the passing of my dear friend, Dr. Terrance Newton. Dr. Newton—or “Newt” as many called him—understood the power and infinite possibilities that education can provide. His own rise from growing up in Wilmington to become a Delaware State University Ph.D. and school leader was an inspiration to so many. His intense commitment to helping others, his impish energy, his determination to make a difference, and his cheerful optimism all combined to make him a great and valued community leader.”

Information on a memorial service was not available at the time of writing.

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