School administrator to retire after 30 years McDowell praised by colleagues

November 26, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

One of the school system's most widely respected administrators, Peter B. McDowell, will retire next month.

McDowell, director of secondary schools since 1987 and principal at Westminster High School for 10 years before that, completed his 30th year in the Carroll schools in June.

A memo circulated through the schools Friday announcing his retirement.

"Very, very sad news," said Donald Pyles, principal at Sykesville Middle School. "He's a terrific gentleman and a wise, wise person. He was out in the schools all the time and knew the teachers personally."

Mary Kay Nevius-Maurer, chairwoman of the English department at Westminster High, said several teachers are upset that McDowell is leaving.

"He was very student-oriented," she said. As principal, "he was always in the halls, and he knew all the kids, not just the ones who played sports. He knew everyone's name. It was amazing."

"He's an outstanding problem-solver," said Superintendent Brian Lockard. "He's a good listener. He's able to hear what a person has to say and come up with a solution."

When McDowell, 54, became director of secondary schools, he created an in-school alternative to suspensions. The Saturday school programs first addressed smoking and attendance problems and more recently addressed disruptive students and fighting.

Every Saturday, McDowell stopped in on the morning program, sometimes in the middle of a bicycle ride.

His philosophy was that principals should have the discretion of running their schools without a lot of interference. People know him for his direct style.

"I always knew if I walked in, I was going to hear the truth, whether I liked it or not," Nevius-Maurer said.

"He's a very honest person," Pyles said. "There was never any baloney."

McDowell grew up outside Philadelphia. He graduated from Gettysburg College in 1965 and went directly to Western Maryland College, where he earned a master's degree.

While working on his masters, he began substitute teaching in Carroll schools.

His first full-time job was as a physical education teacher at Francis Scott Key High School. He later became a guidance counselor there, then an assistant principal at Westminster, where he became principal in 1978.

McDowell said he had been planning to retire and that the December date was prompted by the impending birth of a grandchild.

McDowell said he had thought about retiring in June 1997. But his daughter is expecting a second child in January, and bTC McDowell said he wanted more time for his family this winter.

McDowell's wife, Janet McDowell, is a kindergarten teacher at Westminster Elementary School.

With a career that often required him to work nights and weekends, McDowell said, he wishes he had spent more time with his children when they were younger.

"I'd like to do a better job this time around," he said.

As director of secondary schools, McDowell logged 270 visits to schools a year, including daytime visits, stopping in for games and graduation ceremonies.

"I think one of the things that wears you down is just the pace," he said. "That's one of the things that will be nice, not to have to go out at night all the time."

Nevius-Maurer said that years ago, her husband once asked her why she didn't think about getting into administration.

"I said, 'You would never see me if I did my job like Pete McDowell.' He was at everything," she said.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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