The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Tuesday, April 28, 1998


Teacher's death hits close to home for superintendent

By Karen Coates
Herald Staff Writer

For Mercer Area School District Superintendent Larry Connelly, the Edinboro shootings have hit close to home.

The Friday murder of John Gillette, a science teacher at James W. Parker Middle School, affected him both as a school administrator and on personal level, Connelly said. The 48-year-old, a native of Pittsburgh, and 1971 graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, said he and Gillette met as freshmen and lived on the same floor of a dormitory.

``He was a very good guy,'' Connelly said. ``He was a great athlete and he was popular.''

Connelly says he extends his sympathy to Gillette's family and his friend General McLane School District Superintendent Therese Walter, who are trying to cope with the tragedy.

``You just can't believe this would happen in your own back yard,'' said Connelly. ``Edinboro's just down the road. I'm sure most people are stunned.''

As a superintendent, Connelly said, the fact that a student would murder a teacher is even more shocking. Connelly said he wishes he and other school administrators knew how to prevent such unpredictable tragedies.

``Kids, especially in junior high, say `I hate them. I'm going to kill them' a 1,000 times a day,'' he said. ``It's an anger reaction. Now, it takes a total turn of events.''

Connelly said schools must work with the support tools they have. For Mercer, he said that means hiring a new guidance counselor for grades kindergarten through eight, using the guidance counselor in the secondary schools and the district's Student Assistance Program to help students cope with their problems and identify abnormal behaviors.

The Student Assistance Program is made up of six to eight staff members, including a nurse, guidance counselor, administrator and teachers who review a student's behavior and then discuss problems with the parents. Connelly said parents should call the district if they have concerns.

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Updated May 12, 1998
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