Just before Christmas 2012, a sign went up outside Miami Beach Senior High School designating the bus lane as Rosann Sidener Way.
Sidener, the school’s beloved principal since 2007, was on leave to battle cervical cancer, but she showed up for the after-school ceremony to dedicate the sign.
“It was very tough for her to get there,’’ said her husband, University of Miami music professor Whit Sidener. “She was in a lot of pain. But then she transitions into ‘Dr. Sidener from Columbia University’ and gives a rousing, touching, inspiring, emotional speech.’’
“Doc’’ Sidener, as everyone called her, told cheering students and faculty: “I love the idea that it’s a ‘way...’ It’s not my way, but the Miami Beach High way. The Beach High way is putting kids first, and celebrating diversity.’’
Then, drained by the effort and months of grueling treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, she went into her office, closed the door, and lay down on the floor.
She maintained that level of commitment to school affairs until days before her death Monday night at the Coral Gables home she shared with her husband and their cat, Leonard. They also kept an apartment on South Beach, close to the school, at 2231 Prairie Ave.
John Donohue, who took over for Sidener in July as temporary principal, said she sat with staff members at her dining room table last week — thin, weak and on morphine — hammering out next year’s schedule and dealing with personnel issues.
To the end, he said, she remained “cheerful and positive,’’ the exact qualities that enabled Sidener to oversee Beach High’s rise from a “D’’ school to an “A’’ in four years.
Sidener, born Rosann Powell in Pittsburgh on April 26, 1955, was 57 when she died, and so popular with students and faculty that the Florida Department of Education allowed Tuesday’s FCAT tests to be postponed for a day so that the Beach High family could grieve.
The Miami-Dade County Commission observed a moment of silence in her memory at its Tuesday meeting, and the Miami Beach Fire Department planned on sending representatives to a vigil at the school Tuesday evening.
“The fire department feels she was a pillar of the community and a very positive influence on many young lives at Miami Beach High School,’’ said Capt. Adonis Garcia. “We’ll be flying the flag at half staff from a ladder truck...We feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
Named Florida Principal of the Year in 2012, Sidener began teaching in Miami-Dade in 1977. She served as assistant principal at Nautilus Middle School and Miami Senior High, choral director at Palmetto High School, and principal at Booker T. Washington High School before taking the helm at Beach High.
She held degrees from Columbia and UM, where her husband chairs the Department of Studio Music and Jazz.
She brought the International Baccalaureate and the Scholars Academy and Advancement Via Individual Determination programs to Beach High, oversaw its move to a new building, and saw the graduation rate rise from 63 percent to 75 percent.
“She was a magnet’’ for students’ attention when she walked the halls or visited classrooms, Donohue said. She knew most of the 2,400 kids by name.