Three Catholic school principals are retiring as school year comes to an end

Joe McDaniel, Jodi Peine, and Jerry Carls are retiring, although not for the first time, as principals as the academic year comes to an end. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Three principals serving in Catholic schools of the Diocese of Peoria are retiring as the academic year comes to an end.

Jerry Carls, principal of Trinity Catholic Academy in LaSalle for two years, and Joe McDaniel, principal of Holy Cross in Champaign, each stepped in on an interim basis until permanent principals could be found.

Jodi Peine, principal of St. Philomena in Peoria, is leaving after 11 years. Noting that this is her second retirement, she quipped, “We’ll see if I’m successful or not.”

They were recognized earlier this month at a Mass and luncheon hosted by the Office of Catholic Schools.


“I’ve already retired three times — you’d think I’ve practiced enough,” Carls said with a laugh. “This is it.”

He plans to do some woodworking, help his son who has a cabinet shop, and take a turn at babysitting his seven grandchildren.

“I’ve got four kids so I’ve got things to do at their houses and my wife already has a list for me. She’s adding to it, too. That may be more work than I want,” he said with another laugh.

“I’ve been very blessed. I’m a firm believer in Catholic education. It’s just a wonderful place to send your kids.” Jerry Carls, Trinity Catholic Academy, LaSalle

Carls has worked in education for 46 years, with nearly 30 of them spent in Catholic schools in LaSalle County. He was a teacher and athletic director at St. Patrick School in LaSalle for 13 years, and served as principal at St. Bede Academy in Peru for nine years. The last time he retired it was in 2011, after four years at Peru Catholic.

Ending his career at Trinity Catholic Academy brings him a great deal of satisfaction since the former St. Patrick School is his alma mater. He said he met his wife there and they sent their kids to school there.

“I’ve been very blessed,” Carls told The Catholic Post. “I’m a firm believer in Catholic education. It’s just a wonderful place to send your kids.”

He added that with a Catholic school, faith is built in and reinforces everything parents are trying to teach at home.

“I’m a very lucky guy,” he said. “It’s been fun. I love this place and I love my parish, St. Patrick.”

Carls will be succeeded by Deb Myers, who has served as his assistant principal this year. Prior to that she taught science and math at Trinity Catholic for 20 years.


McDaniel has spent much of the last 40 years as a teacher or principal at Catholic schools in central Illinois. That includes nine years as principal at St. Matthew in Champaign, and development work at The High School of Saint Thomas More, also in Champaign.

He won’t really be retiring since he has been involved in real estate over the last five years and is the head girls’ golf coach at Mahomet High School.

“It’s been a joy to be here. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of them.” Joe McDanielHoly Cross, Champaign

That should still leave enough time to travel with his wife, Gayanne, visit his six grandchildren, and play golf himself. He added that he is an avid, competitive racquetball player.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here at Holy Cross this year,” McDaniel said. “It’s a great school with great families, teachers and students. It’s been a joy to be here. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of them.”


Peine taught in East Peoria public schools and served as enrichment coordinator for District 86 for several years before being named principal at Tremont Elementary School in 1993. She also was director of curriculum and instruction for Tremont District 702.

She retired in 2006 — for about a year — and then followed a lead to St. Philomena in Peoria.

“I was going to do this job for a year and it’s turned into 11. It’s been an extraordinary journey.” Jodi PeineSt. Philomena, Peoria

In 2014, the National Catholic Educational Association selected Peine as one of 10 Catholic school leaders to receive its Distinguished Principal Award.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey,” she told The Catholic Post.

“I don’t have to work. I was going to do this job for a year and it’s turned into 11,” she said. “I’ve got a great priest to work with — we just work really well together. So it’s been great fun. We have a common vision and that’s helped.”

The admiration is mutual.

Speaking on her behalf at the luncheon hosted by the Office of Catholic Schools, Father David Richardson, pastor of St. Philomena, praised Peine for always putting the kids first.

“Whatever we’re doing at school, she’s always got an eye on what is going to be best for the children and to continue to advance them through their lives and help them grow as Christian citizens of this world,” Father Richardson said.

Peine hasn’t decided on the next step yet. She’s had a few offers of part-time work and said she would like to do something at the Riverfront Museum in Peoria. What she does know is that her successor, Jack Dippold, who has been her assistant principal this year, will do a fine job.

“It’s been a great way for him to learn the culture of the school, the operational component, the curriculum, the people,” she said. “So it’s been a great gift for both of us. I feel very comfortable leaving. He’ll do a great job.”


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