LEWISTOWN - Sacred Heart School has a new principal who is determined to be a positive influence in the lives of children.
Dr. Joseph P. Maginnis, of Lewistown, said he is indebted to the Roman Catholic Church and will uphold a family promise by serving as the Catholic school's principal.
"I grew up in a big family ... seven kids," he said.
Joseph P. Maginnis
Maginnis, who grew up in State College, said his father died at age 42. As the oldest sibling, Maginnis said he "turned into a dad" at 17 and helped his mother raise their family. After his father's death, local Catholic priests stopped by the family's home to check in on the kids, he said. The priests "kept an eye on us," he said, and made sure he and his siblings gave attention to their school work and activities.
"I owe the Catholic Church for helping my family all those years," he said. "I want to be a good role model."
Maginnis has dedicated his professional life to helping other children reach their potential. In addition to his effort to serve the church, his intentions also are inspired by a family promise.
"I had a brother who had cancer," he explained.
Before his brother passed away, Maginnis promised he would go back to school, earn a doctorate degree and "help kids."
Serving as SHS' principal is an opportunity to do that, he said.
"Everybody's good at something," he said about working with students. "We just have to find it."
In the past, Maginnis served as principal of Highland Park, Union, East Derry and Derry elementary schools; and as assistant principal at Mifflin County Junior High School and Lewistown Area High School. He also held positions in the Warren County, Hollidaysburg Area and Altoona Area school districts and taught at Wilkes and Penn State universities.
When the Mifflin County public schools condensed several years ago, Maginnis said he took an early retirement and planned to go back to work at Wilkes University.
Then the principal's position at SHS became vacant, and Maginnis said he was called to serve.
"It's a Christian thing to do, to help," he said.
Maginnis said he wants to maintain an environment where students want to attend school and excel in their studies and activities.
"I want you to be able to feel the love," he said about SHS. "Jesus Christ is working in this school."
Maginnis said there are between 90 and 100 students currently registered for the upcoming school year and he would like to see more. He also hopes for more consistency at the school, he said - consistency in administration. Maginnis said there is typically a two- or three-year turnover for principals at the school. He said he wants to stay for a longer term.
"As long as I'm doing well and the school is going OK, I want to stay here," he said, adding that he hopes to watch current kindergarten students work their way through fifth grade and move on to public schooling.
He said he plans to keep in touch and follow up on their success there.
Maginnis currently lives in Lewistown with his wife, LaVerne. They have a daughter, Carolyn, and a son, Richard.
For more information about Sacred Heart School, call the school office at 248-5351 or visit www.sacredheartschool.com.