Also last year, Sidener won the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Jan Pfeiffer Distinguished Service Award, honoring her partnership with the City of Miami Beach to dramatically reverse the high school’s academic fortunes.
David Guthrie, who’s been teaching at Beach High for 21 years, said Sidener came to an “old building where things were rundown’’ with a vision and “incredible drive for change.
“She met with several veteran teachers and sought a lot of input: ‘What kind of change do you think has to happen?’’’ Guthrie recalled. “She didn’t come in and tell people what to do.’’
But her great talent was expecting only the best from faculty, staff, students and herself, Guthrie said.
“You wanted to rise up and meet those standards. Her biggest contribution was changing the culture and values of the school, making everyone want to achieve at the highest level, and motivating her staff to do that.’’
Laurie Kaye-Davis, the school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association president, said Sidener encouraged parent involvement.
“There are many admins where parents are welcomed, but cautiously. I describe Dr. Sidener’s policy as ‘open mind, open heart, open door.’ There is total transparency and honesty...
“The kids responded to her because she was a leader who really believed in teamwork and collaboration, and didn’t ask of anyone to do anything she wouldn’t do herself, even picking up trash.’’
Sidener was the youngest of four siblings whose mother taught music and whose father worked in the security business, said her sister, Carol Eaton, of Milwaukee.
She was always independent, and at 15 months told her mother: “I can do it myself!’’
She began playing violin in fourth grade, sang lead roles in school musicals and at church, and began sewing her own clothes in seventh grade, Eaton said.
Sidener also played piano and the French horn.
She met Whitney Sidener at UM in 1979. Both divorced, they shared a love of jazz, classic music and travel, and married at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in 1983.
“She liked teaching because music was part of her life,’’ her husband said. “She loved conducting and loved turning kids on to music. And she was really good at it. She had one of the top choral programs in the area.’’
They spent a year living on New York City’s Upper West Side in the early 1990s while Rosann worked toward her doctorate and Whit taught at the Manhattan School of Music.
Sidener was exceptionally fit, worked out with a personal trainer, and embraced physical challenges. During Christmas 2010, the Sideners rode mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, then hiked out into a blizzard.
But in January 2011, Rosann Sidener began feeling sick. After getting a diagnosis, “she became an expert in cervical cancer,’’ her husband said. “At M.D. Anderson, they marveled at how organized she was. She was a total advocate for herself.’’
She continued to attend meetings at Beach High until last month, Donohue said.
Tuesday evening, an emotional crowd of about 300 carried candles and flowers at a vigil, talked about “Doc’s’’ impact, and chanted her slogan: “Beach is dynamite!”
Senior class president Shannon Kaplan called her “our cheerleader, our mom, our colleague...Being a principal wasn’t just a job; it was her life. It kept her going.’’
Senior Nikiya Carrero recalled how Sidener, already sick, showed
Eaton said that just before her sister’s death, she asked her to name her most important accomplishment.
She told Eaton: “ ‘Changing Beach High into a better place for kids to be, and giving all kids a better shot at education. It’s not done yet, but we’re getting there.’ That’s what she was about.’’
In addition to her husband and sister, Rosann Sidener is survived by her mother, Martha Powell; brothers Samuel and Daniel Powell; and stepson David Sidener.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a scholarship fund that will be established in Sidener’s memory. A celebration of her life is planned for June, following Whit Sidener’s retirement from the Frost School.
Herald reporter Christina Veiga contributed to this story.