Jon L. Stapleton began as principal of Marianna High School for the 1946-47 school year. He remained principal through the 1961-62 school year. Stapleton received his B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Florida before starting his principal experience in Campbellton and Graceville before moving to Marianna High School. He brought many much needed advancements to MHS, including a new gym, a new band house, and the broadening of the curriculum at MHS. The auditorium was remodeled and fluorescent lights were added in each of the classrooms. The grammar school was erected as well numerous improvements in the old high school building. The school program expanded to include a club activity program. He proved to be a capable leader as he served in various Florida Education Association offices. He served on the Board of Directors of that association for four years. In 1953-54, he served as president of the association and the following year he was vice president. He served on the State Textbook Rating Committee. New facilities for the use and enjoyment of students were acquired. Each year, Stapleton repeatedly stressed the importance of maintaining a high academic record and encouraged students to do their best in all fields under all circumstances.
His leadership skills continued after his tenure at MHS came to an end. Harry Howell was named principal and praised Stapleton’s guidance, “I was hired in 1949 as an assistant coach and teacher and then a couple of years later, I was hired as head coach and athletic director. After serving many years as head coach, I was hired as principal. This completed a long time ambition of what I wanted to do with my life and Mr. Stapleton had me fully prepared for the job ahead of me.”
Margaret Curtis shared, “In my growing up years, children were taught to be fearful of the school principal, who was said to keep an oversized paddle in his office. To be ordered to the principal’s office was the ultimate threat. We had all just as soon be sent to a torture chamber. For that reason, I steered away from even a chance encounter with Mr. Stapleton when I saw him trudging down the hall in our High School. He was an imposing figure: a tall, heavy- set fellow, not much given to smiling. As the only man in their lives, though, the unmarried or widowed teachers adored him. They welcomed all the encounters that I avoided. He, in turn, listened respectfully to all they had to say, and sought their advice on issues that remained a mystery to us. I learned much later that any award or opportunity he sponsored for students was given on the basis on what those teachers recommended, so, indirectly, I owed him those opportunities, even the trivial ones. I was not a gymnast, but once, when Les Beard’s gymnastic team was invited to perform in another city, I was asked to tag along with the team. I have no idea why, and was afraid to “play hooky.” But one of those dear women asked Mr. Stapleton to let me go along and he consented. Again, I don’t know why, but I went with them and had a wonderful day off from school. Along with Patsy Malloy, Mr. Stapleton recommended the two of us as delegates to Girl’s State in Tallahassee. There, we learned how state government worked, and we were allowed to ‘run’ for office. I campaigned to be the representative from Jackson County. My platform was in favor of Driver’s Education for High School seniors. (We didn’t have it then.) I won, but wasn’t as lucky as I thought. The actual seat in the state legislature was then held by Representative Lucius Pooser, who had a wicked sense of humor. He had fixed the seat in such a way that if anybody sat down in it, that person would be thrown backwards- heels overhead. He probably had not counted on a young girl in a full skirt sitting down in his chair, but Les Beard would have been proud of how I managed to get back on my feet. Knowing Mr. Pooser, he probably regretted not being there to see it.”
Working for Stapleton took on a different angle with Curtis, “I have no idea who recommended me as a babysitter, but Mr. Stapleton once asked me to stay with his two daughters while he and Mrs. Stapleton attended a civic event. Usually, I played with the children I watched, often preparing their supper and cleaning up afterwards. That night, however, the little girls were already in bed and I had the most boring night of my babysitting career. I had not brought a book with me, and was afraid to touch one of theirs or turn on their TV. Mr. Stapleton drove me home without saying a word, and I felt guilty when he handed me a dollar. (That was the going rate in 1953 for babysitting, no matter how long or short the time spent.) I wanted to tell him he owned me nothing because I had done nothing, but I was too afraid of him to say a word. Looking back, I realize now that it was ridiculous to be so intimidated by Mr. Stapleton. As long as we behaved ourselves, he was actually no threat at all.”
Tenures of 16 years at one school is not something that you see this day and time. Jon Stapleton was most definitely the right man for the job and was admired by all.
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