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Piece of history departing St. George

Longstanding principal to leave Catholic elementary school in Port Richmond at end of school year

End of an era: Dan Markowski has spent 21 years on the staff, as both a principal and teacher, at Saint George School in Port Richmond and will leave at the end of this school year. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Danny Markowski has spent more than two-thirds of his life walking the halls of Saint George School in Port Richmond.

For the past 16 years, he has been principal. Prior to that, he was the pre-K teacher for four years and the fourth-grade teacher for a year.

And, in 1980, he entered the school as a first-grade student and completed his entire elementary career there.

Serving such a long tenure at the school means he has taught and worked alongside generations of families.

He started his career at St. George teaching alongside three teachers who taught him, only to become their boss a few years later.

One of the students from his and the school’s first pre-K class in 1999 is now the kindergarten teacher.

Fellow classmates now send their children to the Catholic elementary school at 2700 E. Venango St.

His three sons attended their first couple of years of school at St. George before transferring to school where Markowski and his family live in Bucks County.

His first-grade classroom was in the school hall and was taught by a nun.

His office is located where his third-grade classroom was formerly located.

“There was really never a question in my mind that I wouldn’t find my way back here,” Markowski said. “And, when I did, I had so much support. I was one of the first alumni to come back and be on the staff. Having such a history here, coming back as a teacher and principal, you’re able to hold on to the great foundation, but take that and take it to the next level.”

Taking it to the next level means much has changed over the years, but for the better.

Markowski helped develop the pre-K program and taught the first class.

Blast from the past: Dan Markowski has the class picture of the first pre-K at Saint George hanging in his office. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

He worked with staff to revive the Walk-A-Thon and converted it to a Serve-A-Thon, an annual fundraiser, which allows the students to participate in community service.

Technology, including smart boards, Apple TV and laptops, had been added to all classrooms.

But, all good things must come to an end, and, Markowski, 43, announced last week he will resign as principal at the end of the school year.

“It’s really a combination of personal and professional issues,” Markowski said. “After all these years, it’s time for a change. I feel like I’ve taken the school to where I can at this point and I feel I’ve built a great foundation for the next person to come in and take it to the next level. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made.”

Markowski does not plan to leave education altogether: For the past 10 years, he has been an adjunct professor at Holy Family University and hopes to continue in addition to pursuing his doctorate degree.

He has worked with children for all of his professional life, starting as a teenager as camp counselor at Samuel Recreation Center.

A Port Richmond native who grew up on Miller Street, Markowski attended Northeast Catholic High School and received bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education and fine art.

“This was never just a job for me,” he said. “I look forward to coming in and seeing the people and attending the events. I look forward to standing outside just to say ‘Hi’ to parents in the morning and standing outside seeing the kids leave in the afternoon.”

The legacy he hopes to leave is different for each group he has had the opportunity to impact.

“For students, I hope that school was fun and we learned great things and were able to put that toward a positive future. For teachers, I can honestly say, not one has ever left here because they wanted to,” Markowski said. “And for parents, it’s the trust they have in me. I’m honored that they feel secure when they see me outside in the morning or talking to their children.”

Markowski plays “parking police” every morning, keeping traffic moving as parents drop off their children curbside.

“For me, it’s a great time to touch base with everybody,” he said. “I love that part of my day. The parking police job has a lot more perks than it does negatives. It’s fun for me because I’ve always wanted to be a very visible leader. You should be able to grab me at any time.”

Being visible and present has always been a top priority, but maintaining the close-knit community within the walls of the school has been paramount, and a tradition he hopes the school continues when he leaves.

“Community is the most important thing. The one thing we pride ourselves on is St. George is able to provide such a family-oriented atmosphere,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve tried to do over all my years is take us where we need to be for the future, but still maintain the history of what was so special to me and everyone else who attended school with and before me.”

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