LONDONDERRY — Principal of the Year — twice. Proud Yankee fan. Leader of the 2008 New Hampshire School of the Year. Well, now Jim Elefante can add another title to his list. Elefante, who retired after 26 years with the Londonderry School District, will be Grand Marshal for the 110th Old Home Day Parade on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Bubble gum and baseball caps. Pigs and pies. Yankees and elephants.
"School is there for the kids," Elefante said upon his retirement last year.
"You can have fun and learn at the same time. We all perform better when we're confident and happy in our environment."
So, when he came to be the principal at the high school in 2004, Elefante decided to keep the doors to his office open, welcoming students to stop by so he could get to know them.
He left out a box of bubble gum for the kids to help themselves to during the day. He let them wear hats in the hallways and cafeteria. He good-naturedly took his share of pies in the face for various fundraisers, and even kissed a pig.
But that was when he was the principal at Matthew Thornton Elementary School, and the kids challenged him to kiss the little porker if they read a certain number of books for the Books and Beyond program.
Because of his last name, Elefante has been presented with many elephants — stuffed, ceramic and wooden — over the years by students, parents and staff, and they lined the shelves around his office.
He came to Londonderry in 1982 to be the assistant principal of the town's new junior high school. In 1988, he became assistant principal at Matthew Thornton and then principal.
During his 26-year tenure, Elefante received awards for Elementary Principal of the Year in 1997 and High School Principal of the Year at both the state and national level in 2007.