Thank You Janet….

C. Ron Allen and Janet Meeks greet students on the first day of school at Carver Middle.

“Many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” — From the poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray.

I came across that line in something I read recently.

I can’t put my finger on what I was reading but the phrase stirred something in me, so I wrote it down.

And when I revisited my note, it made me wonder: what does it mean to be a flower born to be ‘unseen’?

As I thought about the phrase, I felt it related to beauty or value that doesn’t get recognized or appreciated.

To be honest, I’m not one for poetry unless of course you are talking about song lyrics which have always fascinated me.

“Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice

In the church where a wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window, wearing the face

That she keeps in a jar by the door

Who is it for?”

Now that’s poetry….

But something about this particular Thomas Gray poem resonated. So, I looked it up and I learned that it’s about the universality of death and how our inevitable end serves as a leveling force that brings all people, rich or poor, to the same final fate.

I know. I know. You didn’t bargain for something this heavy on Monday morning. But please bear with me, we get sunnier as this goes on.

Thomas Gray wrote the poem after the death of a friend. It’s meant to be a tribute to the common man and is considered Gray’s masterpiece.

Pretty impressive stuff.

Wouldn’t it be nice to create something that others call your masterpiece?

Regardless, perhaps the beauty of poetry (or a song lyric)  is  that the reader gets to assign their own meaning to the words on the page.

For instance, the Bob Dylan classic “Lay, Lady, Lay” was said to be written about or for Barbra Streisand. Isn’t that wild? Who knew?
But as much as I appreciate Ms. Streisand, when I hear the song, I don’t think about her. And I don’t think about death when I read “Elegy.” To me, the poem speaks to undiscovered or underappreciated beauty.

Not to get all philosophical on this Monday morning, but that’s a concept that reverberates!

So, let’s think about the unsung heroes and heroines in our lives and communities.

Let’s make sure they are not “unseen,” let’s recognize them, let’s thank them, and let’s appreciate them. Now, while we still can.

I’ve been thinking about those extraordinary and sometimes unsung people because I’m on a committee planning a special Delray Chamber gala set for spring 2023. Never too early to mark your calendars!

Details are still being worked out but there’s a consensus that we would like the event to honor some of the special people who made a difference—many of them quietly.

The big shots get the glory, but the folks in the trenches make it happen. That’s true in business and it’s true in communities.

These special people should not go unseen. Their stories need to be told, remembered, and shared so that future generations may know.

I believe in the old proverb—when eating fruit, remember who planted the tree.

One of those special people who made a huge difference was honored Aug. 25 at the Delray Chamber’s Annual Education Breakfast. Janet Meeks, Delray’s long time Education Coordinator, is retiring. She’s a special person and should not go ‘unseen’ as the poet would say.

I couldn’t make the breakfast, but I sent some brief remarks. Below is an expanded version of what I sent.


I am sorry I can’t be with you to celebrate the start of another school year and the end of a remarkable career.

I was there at the beginning in 2001, when Janet Meeks invited me, a new commissioner, to lunch at the old Annex restaurant in Pineapple Grove to discuss an idea. Janet wanted to become the education coordinator for the City of Delray Beach.

In typical style, Janet laid out the facts about why the city needed to dedicate someone full-time to education in Delray Beach even though it was the School Board not the city that was responsible for local schools.

I was sold, instantly.

Not only on the need for our city to have someone who could help us improve our schools, but I was sold on Janet, the person. She’s special—hard working, dedicated and data driven. She has a heart of gold and a ton of vision.

The mayor and commission at the time were richly rewarded for supporting Janet’s initiative. Subsequent Mayors and commissioners have also benefited from Janet’s hard work and her unique ability to see the big picture: there are public servants and then there are public servants. Janet has always gone the extra mile. Janet Meeks has made a difference.

During my time in office, we decided to move Atlantic High School so we could build a new and larger facility to bring our children back home and add career academies.

We also started the Principal For a Day program to bring business and civic leaders into our schools, we championed the modernization of Spady Elementary School, created the Eagle Nest construction program, worked with community partners to add  Beacon Programs at Village Academy and the Achievement Center, developed a new Teen Center, saw the opening of a new Boys and Girls Club, provided afterschool and summer programs to stop the “summer slide” in learning and launched the Get Caught Reading program which gave books to children. We also launched citizen academies to build relationships with our stakeholders. That was just our term in office….she’s done a whole lot more.

Janet spearheaded it all….and then some. In short, she has been an amazing asset for this city.

Over the years, we’ve become good friends, so I’m excited for the next chapter. Janet leaves a legacy of achievement…she created this job and set the bar high.  Those of us lucky enough to work with her will always love and appreciate our remarkable friend. Good luck Janet…thanks for asking me to lunch all those years ago. You hit it out of the park my friend and a generation of Delray children are grateful for your care and concern.


  1. Quality education in Delray is a challenge under the beat of circumstances. Fortunately we had Janet Meeks to guide us along the way. Let us hope the City finds someone to fill her shoes and who strives to equal her passion.

  2. Achieving quality education in Delray is a heavy lift under the best of circumstances. For over 30 years, Delray has been blessed to have Janet Meeks guide the way. Hopefully the City will find someone to fill her shoes and equal her passion for educating the youth of Delray.

  3. Janet Meeks says

    Thank you Jeff for your kind words and your vision all those years ago to approve the education coordinator position. It’s bittersweet to leave a job I have loved for all these years!! But the friendship will last forever!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Janet, thanks for a job well done.
      Yes, the friendships will last forever and so much of your work will be enduring as well.

  4. Susan Ruby says

    Best regards to Janet, a visionary and hard worker! I’m so glad you recognized her wonderful accomplishments!

  5. Jeff – here I thought “Lay, Lady, Lay” was about Joan Baez (?). Either way, such a Great Song!

    But I digress…

    Janet is a Gem and has been such a Guiding Light for education for so long in Delray Beach! Can’t wait to see her next Chapter (can’t imagine her sitting around knitting) and can’t wait to see how her legacy and programs will be continued.

  6. Joe Gillie says

    Simply the best … thank you Janet

  7. John Tomaszewski says

    We always appreciated Janet’s support of our community education programs at the fire department. She made a difference in Delray Beach.

  8. Bill Bathurst says

    Janet’s impact will be felt in Delray for decades to come. We have many unsung heroes and unseen flowers in Delray. But be assured , many of us saw her work and may more will see the seeds she planted blossom in our future . I’m so happy we were able to send you and Joe on that trip to get a little well deserved appreciation and accept your award .
    thanks for all you have done Janet

  9. Cathy DeMatto says

    I first met Janet when I attended Residents Academy many years back. What an excellent facilitator and program!
    As a newer resident relocated from Boston, it was important for me to learn about Delray. Because of Janet’s dedication, enthusiasm and support, I served five terms on the city Education Board (thanks for my first appointment , Mayor Jeff Perlman!), chaired Principal for a Day, joined the Chamber education committee, and assisted on special education projects. Visiting our schools was a joy. I loved every minute of it.
    What a pleasure to learn from a consummate band dedicated professional who has also become a very dear friend.
    Thank you Janet—❤️

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Beautifully said Cathy! And thank you for your stellar service and dedication to our children and schools.

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