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Kriever met challenges

"I've had an exciting career," Hugh Kriever says on the eve of his retirement as a Pinellas County area school superintendent, but it included some sticky assignments along the way. "Hey, I've got a great opportunity," he remembers telling his wife, Martha, about one promotion. And after hearing what it was, she quipped, "What did you do wrong?"

After teaching for three years in Louisville, Ky., Hugh began his 31-year Pinellas career as an American history teacher and assistant football coach at Largo High. In 1963 he was named athletic director and head football coach there.

One of his principals at Largo was Nick Mangin, who made all of his male teachers, including coaches, wear ties. Hugh adopted that practice when he became a principal, much to the dismay of some who worked for him.

In 1968, four days before the start of school, Largo principal Gene Chizik lost his dean of boys and asked Hugh to take the job _ while continuing as football coach. After-school detention was a punishment to be avoided that year because Hugh would tell delinquent boys to meet him on the football field to run wind sprints with his players.

Hugh spent one year, 1969-70, as county supervisor of health, driver education and physical education, and another at Northeast High as an assistant principal under Lee Benjamin, who is now a School Board member.

But then came his first sticky assignment in the fall of 1971, principal of Azalea Junior High. He was replacing the very popular Fred Rozelle, now commissioner of the Florida High School Activities Association; an assistant principal at Azalea thought he should have gotten the job; and it was the first year of total school desegregation.

"It was an interesting two years," Hugh said. The first year started with students wearing "Azalea Prison 0049" signs to protest the tough rules he instituted to maintain order, and it ended with parents thanking him for "making the school safe."

Then, in 1973, he was named principal of Boca Ciega High, a school wracked by racial turmoil and going on double sessions to accommodate the first class of ninth-graders because middle schools, replacing junior highs, had grades six through eight.

His many Boca Ciega stories include one about being called by Gulfport police after midnight and arriving at the school to find it covered with racially inflammatory graffiti. He and other administrators pooled the few dollars in their pockets to buy paint and spent the night covering the slurs that couldn't be washed off with gasoline. They finished just before the first bus arrived at 6:40 a.m.

In 1976 Hugh was given the job of opening the new Pinellas Park High, which sounds like a plum assignment until one realizes that many parents of children being transferred from Clearwater High and Largo High to the new school were outraged.

He still remembers a mass meeting of all these parents at Largo High, when he stood on a stage familiar to him from his time there in the 1960s, but now reminding him of Rome's Colosseum as he waited for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign.

He gives credit to many of his fellow administrators for helping to win over those parents and their children, who, when he left five years later, spontaneously saluted him en masse.

Hugh has spent the last 10 years at the county level, first as area director of discipline and then as an area superintendent in the growing north county, where he opened eight schools.

And what's ahead for Hugh and Martha, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary June 25? They own an RV and love to camp, and Hugh wants to be a campground host in one of the national parks. The Park Service provides a free campsite but no salary, and the host functions as a public-relations person, he said.

Closer to home, he wants to remain in public service but as a volunteer in programs that help young people and the elderly.

The Red Fox is retiring, but he'll be around.

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