NEW LEXINGTON — The New Lexington School District said goodbye to one of its most valued school administrators in early June. Janie Halaiko recently retired as principal of Junction City Elementary after working in education for 35 years in The New Lexington School District.
“We are just so fortunate that so many kids were able to be influenced over that many years,” New Lexington Superintendent Casey Coffey told The Perry County Tribune. “Not only was she the leader at Junction City but she helped put all the staff at Junction City too.”
Halaiko has been the principal at Junction City Elementary for 22 years. Teaching was not in her mindset when she started college around 1980 at the University of Akron. Her original plan was to focus on studying business but that quickly changed when her husband, Micheal Halaiko, started teaching English and industrial arts, or graphic design, at New Lexington High School.
She and Micheal moved from Cleveland to New Lexington when he became an English teacher. After seeing her husband work with children, she decided that she would become a teacher herself.
“Once I saw him I decided to change my career path,” Halaiko said. “I just thought it was the most rewarding occupation that anyone could ever get into.”
Halaiko graduated from the University of Akron in 1984 with a degree in education. Her first exposure to teaching was when she took over for a teacher that was on maternity leave in the Maysville School District. She would teach second grade for the district at that point, she knew this was the profession for her.
After her time student teaching in Maysville, she was then hired at Junction City Elementary School in Perry County. She would teach second grade for 11 years. She would then work as a specialist at the New Lexington Middle School for two years. Halaiko later returned and became the principal at the Junction City Elementary which she held for 22 years.
“I was so excited about being principal, but I was nervous,” Halaiko stated. “I felt like I was very successful as a teacher.”
She stated that she felt nervous because she wanted to do “the best” work she could do as principal. Halaiko added that she understood that the principal was an important position and that she needed to set the tone.
“I thought is was an awesome responsibility and privilege,” Halaiko said.
The philosophy she nurtured was one that revolved around being a family as a school. By leading by example, she knew that if she gave her “personal best” that the rest of the teachers as well as students would also give their best.
What followed her philosophy was achievements that helped build up the education in Junction City Elementary. In the 2019 school year, there were 862 certificates awarded to students that moved up a reading level in the elementary school.
Halaiko also instilled an economy system for students who read a lot and studied hard. Students also earned points for reading which they get to use later on in the school year. Points that are earned gives the students a chance to use them in an auction setting. A local auctioneer conducts the event for the students and give them a chance to show how much they have improved and all the hard work they have done all year. Students who earned 150 points got special recognition.
“If you give kids the opportunity to have some control in their life, they work hard,” Halaiko said.
In 2019, Junction City Elementary School also earned an “A” for K-3 literacy. It was the only school in the county to receive an “A” rating. The school was also ranked in the top 20 percent out of 1,636 schools in Ohio by SchoolDigger.
In early June of this year, Halaiko announced her retirement as the principal at Junction City Elementary. Her successor will be former literacy coach Maggie Cannon and she will be the new principal at Junction City Elementary. Cannon and Halaiko worked very closely over the past few years. Halaiko stated that the school will be in good hands with Cannon taking charge.
“I have been mentoring her for really the last two years,” Halaiko stated. “She’s ready and she’s capable.”
“We expect the transition to be seamless,” Coffey said. “Janie was Cannon’s mentor and she has trained her very well.”