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Mount Pleasant Area Wall of Fame: Former principal James McKenna added to list

| Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2003

MOUNT PLEASANT -- Another photo on the Mount Pleasant Area Wall of Fame has been added.

James "Peck" McKenna is the third inductee on the wall following state Rep. Jess Stairs and U.S. Rep. John Murtha, all of whom have their photos on permanent display in the library.

Standing below a monitor showcasing photos of McKenna from early childhood to adult life as a teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal and principal at Mount Pleasant Area High School, current principal Mike Picarsic welcomed guests to a ceremony for McKenna, which took place in the high school cafeteria.

A place on the wall is for alumni or current or former employees of the Mount Pleasant Area School District who made a significant contribution to the community, profession and society and hold the following positive traits: achievement, contribution, character, service and dedication.

Picarsic said the future inductees are nominated by anybody and are voted upon by the Mount Pleasant Area Teachers' Association committee by a vote of 65 percent. The committee will accept nominations for the 2004 inductee in November.

Picarsic then let the guests know a little more about McKenna.

McKenna was born in Mount Pleasant in 1928, graduated from Ramsay High School in 1946, served in Japan from 1946 to 1948, earned an undergraduate degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1953 and then earned a master's degree from Duquesne University in 1963.

His career in education, said Picarsic, began with junior and senior high school social studies and biology, then guidance counselor, then assistant principal, and was then the principal of Mount Pleasant Area High School for 15 years of his 37-year span in education.

Even after McKenna retired, said Picarsic, he returned to the school to help out with whatever needed done.

Picarsic also credited McKenna for guiding him on "my chosen path."

Picarsic then read a letter from McKenna's son, Chip, stating that not only was McKenna a regular attendee at all school events and tirelessly worked every day, but he came down to breakfast every morning and was smiling and whistling.

After coming up to the podium to accept a few gifts, McKenna addressed the guests.

"I'm overwhelmed," McKenna said. He added that he enjoyed doing his job, that he did what he had to do and was blessed to be at the right place at the right time and with the right people.

McKenna said the four major issues the country faces are the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the economy and education.

"I'm not sure they're in the right order," McKenna said, adding that education should be at the top of the list.

One of the main problems with education, said McKenna, is absenteeism; students should be expected to attend school and be prepared to do their assignments with a cooperative attitude and a respect for their educators.

McKenna added that all of the problems in society are dropped on the steps of education. He remembers it all just used to be about reading, writing and arithmetic, but now school's have to worry about teaching sex education and enforcing dress codes.

The solution, said McKenna, are those involved that are closest with students -- parents and then faculty. They should be aware of outside influences that can change a student's perception of what school is and how they should act towards it.

"In every school in the country," McKenna said, "if you want it, it's there.

"What it takes to do a good job at school is occurring," said McKenna, "and it's occurring in Mount Pleasant."

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