PIEDMONT -- Piedmont High School's longtime educator, coach and administrator, Rich Kitchens, was the center of attention during his retirement party.
Surrounded by tables of food and flowers, neon-colored plastic fedoras and live music, Kitchens did a lot of grinning and laughing while his co-workers and students sang his praises last Friday evening. A series of brief speeches offered humor, for which Kitchens is also known, and sentimental declarations.
"You have a knack for getting straight to the point," said Assistant Superintendent Michael Brady. "Sometimes it got you in trouble, but it always came straight from the heart. You are a man of uncompromising character."
"You are the most detailed and hardworking educator I have ever known," said Randy Booker, also an assistant superintendent for the Piedmont Unified School District.
The fedoras, which many attendees donned in the crowded community room at Piedmont Center for the Arts, were in tribute to Kitchens' hat, one which has become a Kitchens trademark around the campus along with a collection of colorful ties.
Kitchens' tenure at PHS has included more than 30 years of service, during which he has been a classroom teacher and a longtime coach in basketball, baseball and mock trials. Add to that his service as athletic director, activities director, leadership teaching and a post as principal since 2011, and it's no wonder that PHS senior Matt Leong said, "He's a motor that never stops running."
Kitchens earned a law degree in 1997 and wrote a textbook on Constitutional law that the students have been using in their civics class. Kitchens is leaving Piedmont High, but the campus won't forget him. Room 14 will be named after him, and an art student's painting of his hat will also be hung at the school.
Superintendent Constance Hubbard sent Kitchen off with some items for the future, including a chef's towel and hat. One of his former students, James Cooke, commented on being invited to Kitchens home to have some of his "famous" gumbo.
"I still want that recipe," he said.
Cooke closed his speech, saying Kitchens was "the best coach and teacher I ever had. He really had expectations for us, and to me that meant love. He made me feel like Michael Jordan."
Kitchens said he plans to travel with his wife, visit his granddaughter in Arizona and practice law. Brent Daniels, who taught and coached sports, has been appointed to succeed Kitchens. His career includes 10 years as assistant principal at Burlingame High and 11 years teaching, mostly in the Bay Area. He also coached El Cerrito High School's boys' varsity basketball, resulting in a North Coast Section championship.