It takes a lot to daunt Joe Peccia or to dampen his enthusiasm.
Even as he acknowledges he has inherited a “double-D school” — meaning the school has earned a D grade from the state for the past two years — in the next breath the new principal is talking about turning Pine Grove Elementary into “a beacon of Palm Beach County.”
Peccia, 36, said he has always wanted to be a principal. And today, he will open the doors to his Delray Beach school as one of nine brand-new principals in Palm Beach County.
“I’ve got goosebumps,” he said last week. He said he grew up in the Palm Beach County school system, and his father recently retired after more than 30 years as a teacher in the district.
“I’m ready to really get these students prepared for the future and be prepared to be productive members,” Peccia said.
Overall, students at 18 schools will start the year with a new principal, a slight decrease from the 22 moves that happened last summer. The district also will soon be replacing retiring Principal Martha O’Hare at S.D. Spady Elementary in Delray Beach.
The movement of principals is always a hot topic, particularly as students prepare to head back to classes. Parents want to know who will be leading their child’s school, and district administrators know a principal can be a deciding factor in how smoothly the year goes.
“We have some excellent, excellent principals,” Superintendent Wayne Gent said last week.
This year, much of the shifts came because of “natural progression” of leaders through the ranks, said district spokesman Jason Shockley.
For instance, at Jupiter High, Principal Dan Frank replaced Cheryl Alligood, now the district’s chief academic officer.
Gent, a former principal himself, has said he knows the importance of having a principal in place for the start of school.
Schools getting new principals:
Beacon Cove Intermediate: Leslie Bolte (formerly principal of Lighthouse Elementary)
Carver Middle: Kiwana Alexander-Prophete (formerly assistant principal at Carver)
Cholee Lake Elementary: Marline Campbell (formerly principal of Pine Grove Elementary)
Don Estridge High Tech Middle: Laura Riopelle (formerly principal of J.C. Mitchell Elementary)
Golden Grove Elementary: Adam Miller (formerly principal of Pioneer Park Elementary)
Greenacres Elementary: Melissa Patterson (formerly Area 5 instructional support team leader)
Heritage Elementary: Nina Lant (formerly assistant principal at Discovery Key Elementary)
H.L. Johnson Elementary: Patricia Lucas (formerly principal of Greenacres Elementary)
Hope-Centennial Elementary: Awilda Tomas-Andres (formerly assistant principal at John I. Leonard High)
J.C. Mitchell Elementary: Joan Pierre-Jerome (formerly assistant principal at Boca Raton High)
Jupiter High: Daniel Frank (formerly principal of Osceola Creek Middle)
Lighthouse Elementary: Julie Hopkins (formerly principal at Hope-Centennial)
Osecola Creek Middle: Nicole Daly (formerly assistant principal at Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts)
Pine Grove Elementary: Joseph Peccia (formerly Area 1 instructional team support leader)
Pioneer Park Elementary: Mary Ford (formerly assistant principal at Pahokee Middle/Senior High)
Plumosa School of the Arts: Catherine Reynolds (formerly assistant principal at Palm Springs Middle)
S.D. Spady Elementary: TBD (Principal Martha O’Hare is retiring once her replacement is found)
South Olive Elementary: Sharon Hench (formerly principal of H.L. Johnson)
Verde Elementary: Seth Moldovan (formerly principal of Heritage Elementary)