ADAMS TWP — Mars School District Superintendent William Pettigrew is retiring after 25 years at the helm.
Pettigrew announced at the Tuesday school board meeting that his retirement will be effective on Dec. 1, 2013.
He said the financial crunch faced by districts across the state during the past few years did not figure into his decision to retire.
“I’ve spent 43 years in public education, plus it is time for Mars School District to find a new educational leader,” Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew’s legacy will no doubt include growth, as two new school buildings and addition projects at the middle school, high school, primary center and Centennial School occurred during his tenure.
The Centennial School, which educates fifth and sixth graders, and the current elementary school, which originally was the new primary center, were added to the district under Pettigrew.
District enrollment has exploded since 1987, when Pettigrew accepted the position as Mars superintendent. When he started, 1,475 students attended Mars schools, compared to 3,230 this school year.
Pettigrew said the reasoning for the population explosion is simple.
“People discovered the best-kept secret in Pennsylvania: The Mars School District,” Pettigrew said.
He lists curriculum development as one of his proudest achievements at Mars, saying the district has progressed through various stages of education and never maintained the status quo. Mars, said Pettigrew, has always moved forward and evolved regarding curriculum.
He also touted the various school boards that he has guided and that have provided him guidance over the years.
“As a school superintendent, I have always had very supportive and pro-education boards who consider students first and foremost,” Pettigrew said. “I think that’s the most positive thing you can say about the school district: the kids came first.”
School board President Dayle Ferguson said it was with a heavy heart that she entertained a motion to accept Pettigrew’s retirement.
“Through the years, so many have had the privilege to work with you as you steadily guided us through the many changes in public education,” Ferguson said. “You’ve given your very best to students, staff and the Mars community for 25 years, and it shows.”
Pettigrew received his bachelor’s degree from Edinboro State College, and his master’s and doctorate of education from Penn State University.
He taught second and fourth grades in the Hempfield School District and served as principal in the Tussey Mountain School District in Bedford County, as elementary supervisor in the Shippensburg School District in Franklin County, and as an assistant superintendent and superintendent at the Penncrest School District in Crawford County.
Pettigrew and his wife, Debbie, live in Adams Township. They have four grown children and six grandchildren.
Pettigrew said he plans to work after he retires, but is unsure in what capacity.
“I’ve enjoyed my stay here at Mars School District, and I’m impressed with the area, staff members and support staff,” Pettigrew said. “And the boards have been very, very helpful. Overall I have no regrets on my tenure here.”
The school board will hire a consultant in the near future to help find a new superintendent.