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Principal Peckyno retiring

June 06, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

CLEAR SPRING - You might find John Peckyno painting a classroom. Or installing a trophy case. Or giving a pep talk about the importance of clear goals, a good night's sleep and a complete breakfast.

You might find Peckyno in the principal's office at Clear Spring High - but it's not likely.

During his four years as principal at South Hagerstown High and his six years at Clear Spring's helm, Peckyno has built a reputation as a hands-on leader.

He will retire June 30. Williamsport High Assistant Principal Michele Fagan will take Peckyno's place.

"We will miss him because he does a lot for the school," said front office secretary Debbie Aleshire. "He painted the entire office over the weekend. The hours he puts in are unbelievable."

Peckyno, 64, said he has striven to provide as many experiences as possible for his students and co-workers during his 40-year educational career. He's counted on his contagious positive attitude to solve problems. He's cared.

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It's just time to move in another direction, he said.

"I started carrying newspapers when I was 10 in 1945, and I've worked every day since. I'm going to keep my hands in something," said Peckyno, who lives in the Beaver Creek area with his wife, Sylvia.

The Pittsburgh, Pa., native said poverty of his childhood shaped his character and the values that have guided his life and career: Embrace religion; respect yourself; avoid trouble; learn to laugh and sing; handle burdens and make the best of them; be committed; play together; cherish your family; and value education.

Against his mother's advice, Peckyno quit a decent-paying mill job in favor of a career geared toward "helping people."

"I've always had an affinity for school and what it provided for me," he said. "I haven't regretted to this day my choice in getting a teaching degree."

Peckyno taught social studies before serving from 1961-89 as an instruction coordinator, high school principal, and superintendent of schools in Warren, Ohio. He retired in 1989 but sought work when his daughter entered college.

In September 1990, Peckyno became principal at South Hagerstown High School, which had demographics similar to his former post in Ohio, he said.

He came to Clear Spring in September 1994. The first thing he did was paint his red office walls a "soothing, calming green," he chuckled.

Peckyno said his career at Clear Spring High has been rewarded by cooperation from his staff and the community.

The school's faculty has worked closely with students and parents to improve test scores and attendance, he said.

During the principal's tenure, Clear Spring High earned statewide Blue Ribbon status. It was one of only 10 out of 75 applicants to achieve the honor, Peckyno said.

Blue Ribbon schools are honored for everything from school culture to challenging academic standards to school, family and community partnerships, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

Clubs such as the Athletic Boosters have made numerous campus improvements, including funding soccer field lights, press boxes and rest rooms, Peckyno said.

"The folks in this community care about their kids, and they are very generous and caring in supporting the school," he said.

The principal isn't a sports fan but he's a familiar face at nearly every Clear Spring High sporting event. He attends Band Boosters and other club meetings.

"I can see how sports and other extracurricular activities give kids the opportunity to develop their personalities and their social graces, provide an outlet for energy and a chance for scholarships," Peckyno said.

He doesn't need a bronze plaque or a gold watch to mark his retirement.

Peckyno displayed a hand-stitched quilt with squares depicting each of Clear Spring High's clubs, various community groups and the blue ribbon that symbolizes the school's statewide achievement.

The center patch holds a portrait of the principal.

"This is something that says it all," Peckyno said.

He plans to paint a few more classrooms before he leaves.

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