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Departing PHS principal looks back

By Blair Yankey - byankey@perutribune.com

For the past four years, Peru High School Principal Jason Cary has awarded each senior class their diplomas as they’ve headed out the door to find their way in the world.

Cary is embarking on a new endeavor of his own soon: he’s taking the helm of Greenfield-Central High School, the largest school in Central Indiana’s Hancock County.

But he’s leaving the best job he’s ever had, he said.

Cary, who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in social studies, became assistant principal at Peru in 2010, and three years later, began as principal.

In addition to setting the school’s atmosphere and culture, Cary said the most challenging task as a leader is trying to satisfy everyone.

“You are trying to make so many different groups of people happy,” he said. “But the big thing is doing what’s best for the kids.”

At Greenfield-Central, Cary will oversee a school with about 1,500 students and 85 teachers – more than double the size of Peru.

Cary said he plans to examine four things there right away: how you get change, how you make change, and what’s important and unimportant. His primary goal is to help improve the school’s graduation rate – which is at 91 percent.

Peru’s graduation rate is nearly 98 percent, he said.

When Cary started, the number of credits required to graduate was 50. Now, the state requires 40, which Cary said allows kids to take more of the classes they want and gives at-risk students a better chance to leave with a diploma.

“Greenfield’s graduation rate is not as high as Peru, so that’s certainly something I’m going to try to roll up my sleeves and get a good grasp on and make sure I can get that a little closer to where it should be,” he said.

Aside from his new job, he’s also looking forward to being closer to family. He and his wife, Lindsey – who was an English teacher at Peru – both have family in Indianapolis and near Terre Haute.

Cary will be replaced by Paul Frye, former principal at Elmwood Elementary, who has worked for the school district for 27 years and once served as assistant principal at the high school.

“Jason has had a very strong impact at the high school,” said Peru Community Schools Superintendent Sam Watkins. “He’s done a great job ... and Mr. Frye hopes to carry on and push (the students) even further in their successes.”

Cary thinks Frye’s hiring as his successor was a smart decision and the school is headed in the right direction.

“Paul was a big part of our success when he was here before, and he will continue to move us forward as a building,” he said.

Despite the trials and tribulations that came with the territory, Cary said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I think we did a lot of great things for the kids,” he said. “And even with the things we didn’t do well, we learned from, and that helped us later.”

But while Cary is leaving, he’s not exactly saying goodbye. He said he plans to visit the city as often as possible.

“I’ve got too many friends to not come back and visit,” he said. “I definitely plan on coming back for circus season, that’s something my (two sons) always enjoy, and definitely for ball games just to see everyone.”

His advice to Peru’s remaining students: listen to the staff and know they’re in good hands.

“The administration, teachers and guidance counselors are going to do what’s best for (them),” he said. “The students have a wonderful support system there of people who always strive to do what’s in their best interest.”

Cary said what he’ll remember most about Peru is the people – friends, co-workers and students.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given seven years ago,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with an amazing staff, great students and the whole nine. I’m going to miss everyone at Peru ... The last graduation at Peru was definitely bittersweet.”

Watkins describes Cary as very relational and positive to teaching staff and students. “We at Peru Community Schools wish Mr. Cary the best, as he and his family move on and start their next chapter,” he said.