Right place at right time

March 13, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

Editor's note: The Washington County Commission for Women is trying to document the county's women who were pioneers in their career fields. In honor of Women's History Month, The Herald-Mail is presenting, each Sunday in March, a sample of women that the commission is considering as "firsts" for a book. This is the second of a four-part series.

HAGERSTOWN - Jane S. Guyton, the woman believed to be Washington County's first female high school principal, says her place in history might have come as the result of being in the right place at the right time.

During her 29th year with Washington County Public Schools, Guyton's position as supervisor of library media services and secondary reading was eliminated in 1988 as part of a district-wide reorganization, she said.

The reorganization opened the door to new opportunities for Guyton, who said she was more than prepared to assume another leadership position. She had served as vice principal at North Hagerstown High School from 1977-81. Before that, she spent 18 years as a classroom middle and high school English and reading teacher. She also was one of the school system's first educators to teach televised lectures broadcast to Washington County schools.


But, even with a solid track record, she never expected to become a high school principal.

"In my mind, I thought I'd probably assume another supervisory position," Guyton said.

But during her interview process, one topic kept coming up.

"They'd say, 'Talk to us about being a high school principal,'" she said.

After a few months, Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen made Guyton an offer, she said.

"Jane, I'll be very honest with you. We'd like you to go to North High. Go home and think about it,'" she said, repeating what she recalls as Gersen's exact words.

"I got out my yellow pad and I listed my pros and my cons. I came up with a very long con list and a very short pro list," she said.

But, she still took the job.

"I threw the paper away and said, 'I'm going to do it.'"

It was a decision she says she has never regretted.

While principal at North Hagerstown, her staff included 78 teachers and a custodial and food services staff of 40. There were 1,200 students in the school at the time.

Guyton said the experience proved to be the most rewarding three years of her 32-year career.

The position brought long days, trips to sporting events and many after-school activities, all which was invigorating and challenging, she said.

"It was a joy to go to work every day. It's the toughest job I've ever done, it's not quite 24/7, but it's close to it," she said.

For her days at North Hagerstown, she remembers passing an academic accreditation evaluation, 18 bomb threats during her last year and a mandatory student body measles inoculation.

"The health department demanded it after a student came down with measles," she said.

Guyton, who retired in 1991, said she regrets not pursuing a principal position earlier in her career.

She received a bachelor's degree from Hood College in Frederick, Md., and a master's degree from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa.

Guyton, who lives in Hagerstown, is married and the mother of two sons.

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