By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — New Center School principal Jacqui Orphanos is already at her desk, organizing for September.
“I’m settling in,” she said. “I’m working ... getting the materials ready for when the children come back.”
This is a bit of a comeback for Orphanos, who started right here.
“I’m Peabody-born and bred, and I’m so happy to be back,” she told the School Committee after being named principal.
In a year when he had to fill multiple vacancies in key leadership spots — including at the high school — Superintendent Joe Mastrocola touted the choice of Orphanos as “a consensus builder” who has “hit the ground running.” She was among four finalists chosen by a screening team that included parents and school staffers, he said.
Born Jacqueline Berry, Orphanos, 47, was the youngest in a family living not far from the school she will now be supervising. Her father, John, was a businessman who owned a jewelry store and whose public service included serving as a Peabody state representative in the 1960s. Her mother, Mary Lou, worked in the probation department of the city’s district court.
As a baby, said Orphanos, “I went home from the hospital to Felton Street.”
That’s not far from Center School, but when she was 8 months old, the family moved to another part of Peabody after the death of her father.
“I feel blessed he was a politician,” she said.
With an entire professional career spent in education, Orphanos said, “I enjoy making a difference in the lives of children. ... I enjoy helping to raise their capacity, helping them to be all they can be. I passionately believe that all children can learn.”
Orphanos received an undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Salem State and a master’s in special education from Lesley College. In 1989, she started working in Peabody at the Burke and Carroll schools, including work in special education. In 2000, she took an assignment at the North Shore Education Consortium. She also worked at the Reading Schools and for the last five years at Andover Schools, where she led the elementary program, supervising up to 40 teachers.
“I’m just very excited to be the principal at the Center School,” she said. “This will be my first time being a principal.”
Currently living in Lynnfield, Orphanos has two children, one daughter at Penn State and another at Lynnfield High. Her husband, George, works at Analogic.
When she’s not teaching, Orphanos likes to paint — both oils and watercolors — or create pottery. Additionally, she’s worked in the theater, helping provide costumes for plays staged at Lynnfield High. She describes art as a passion.
After her introduction to the school board, Orphanos rose to depart.
“Are you leaving already?” asked member Ed Charest.
She sat, and he asked why she decided to come back to Peabody.
Without a pause, she traced the decision to her previous experience teaching in Peabody “and how joyful is the memory of every day.”
Charest responded, smiling, “Now you can go.”
Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.