EASTON, Md. – At the conclusion of this school year, James Nemeth is stepping down as principal of Saints Peter and Paul High School after 23 years.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Nemeth said. “It’s one that has challenged me professionally, challenged me spiritually, but one that’s also affirmed me spiritually and personally.”
Father James Nash compared Nemeth to a ship’s rudder. Through difficult times, he kept the school on an “even keel,” Father Nash said.
“Prior to my coming here nine years ago, there was a huge upheaval in the school for various reasons, and no one is to blame,” Father Nash said. “But the one person who was the stalwart in all of this was Jim.”
“He’s a very dedicated individual. He’s a good educator. And he’s a wonderful Catholic,” Father Nash said.
Peggy Wilson, chair of the Saints Peter and Paul School Board, also admires Nemeth’s dedication and called him “a very faith-filled individual” she had the “privilege of working with” for seven years.
“In working with the board, he excelled at budgeting and budget management, development, marketing and strategic planning,” Wilson said. “Jim is a very thorough administrator.”
Dr. Louis De Angelo, secretary for Catholic education and superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Wilmington, shared his thoughts about Nemeth with school administrators earlier this year.
“Under his leadership Mr. Nemeth has ensured the high school offers a solid academic program and the results in student achievement and college placements affirm this work,” De Angelo said. “The Diocese of Wilmington is very grateful for his service.”
Father Nash said he was impressed with Nemeth’s “really, really strong faith.”
“His own personal faith helped him not only in really making sure that Catholic identity was a huge part of our school, but I sat with him many times dealing with difficult situations, and his faith and his patience were very evident. I learned some things watching him do that,” Father Nash said.
Nemeth lives in Severna Park on the western shore of Maryland and commuted to Easton daily. The “third-generation Hungarian” met his Hungarian wife Erzsebet for the first time in her home country where, as a Fulbright teacher, he taught history for a year in the 1990s. They have three grown daughters, with the youngest completing her third year of college.
St. John the Evangelist is the family’s church home and the children went to the parish school where Erzsebet teaches fourth grade. Nemeth considers Saints Peter and Paul Parish his second spiritual home.
“I’ve had two major jobs in my life in Catholic education,” Nemeth said. “The first was 14 years at Archbishop Spalding (High School in Severn, Maryland), and the last 23 years here.”
“I’m very happy that Catholic education, particularly on the secondary level, is alive and well on the Eastern Shore,” he said. “It’s here through the really great efforts of a lot of very, very good people.”
“They built this wonderful school in the last three or four years; that’s a tremendous commitment,” he said. “There have been some lean years where we wondered (about) the very existence of the school, and it’s in a much better place financially and facility-wise for the future, and that I’m happy for.”
Nemeth said he was charged with fostering a “strong Catholic identity” when he was appointed to lead the high school.
“I think it is a strong Catholic school. It has a very strong spiritual core, and that’s unique to have in this day and age that you have a place in which faith is so central to what we do, and so I feel good about that,” Nemeth said. “We have a good academic program, we have good results for graduates and our athletic teams do great stuff, but it’s that whole package, the whole mind, body, spirit package that has come to fruition here at Saints Peter and Paul.”
“He’s got quite a legacy at the school,” Father Nash said.
“I love this parish, and I love the families that have been here for generations,” Nemeth said. “I’m a history major, so I know the history of this place. And I know the absolute commitment of Saints Peter and Paul Parish … literally building the school, building the elementary school, building the high school brick by brick, and I have great affinity for the longstanding multi-generational families that have been a part of it since.”
“I am grateful to Father (Robert) Coine, who gave me the opportunity to be here. I’m grateful for Father Nash for his support of the school community. I’m thankful for the wonderful teachers and staff members that I’ve known over 23 years. These are just tremendously committed people to Catholic education. They care deeply. They care about these kids. They care about Catholic education. I have the utmost respect for them,” he said.
“The parents have been wonderfully supportive; it truly is a family atmosphere here and has been for generations. I’ve had the pleasure and the honor to witness (students’) growth and development,” he said. The hundreds of graduates … have made a definite impact on my life.”
Nemeth said the completion of the new high school campus means that it “will be here for more generations,” Nemeth said. “I look at that and say, ‘It’s time.’ Twenty-tree years is a tremendous run for any school leader. Truth be told, schools are dynamic organizations, and you need a constant influx of new ideas and new energies. So, it was okay. I was at peace with that.”
“I’m just stepping back and discerning where God would like to put me,” he said.
“I don’t see myself doing anything other than some sort of service in Catholic education or some Catholic ministry. It’s all I’ve known my entire life; I’m a product of the system,” Nemeth said. “I don’t know where that’ll be, but I want to continue to be of service to the church.”
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