The ceremony to present him with this year's Golden Apple Award took Windermere Elementary School Principal Steve Scarpitti by surprise last week.
Staff members and students gathered in the school's the multi-purpose room while the principal was in a "fake meeting" with PTO presidents.
"While I was behind closed doors, all of the students and staff members gathered in our multi-purpose room with about 10 members of the Upper Arlington Civic Association," Scarpitti said. "Once everyone was in place, I was called from my PTO meeting to fix the PA (public address) equipment.
"I was completely stunned and very surprised by 550 staff and students for the Golden Apple presentation," he said.
Members of the Civic Association, wearing gold coats, handed out Golden Apple awards to Scarpitti and several teachers, based on nominations submitted by students, parents and peers April 19-23.
Civic Association member Lori Trent said the name of each winner is "closely guarded" prior to the presentation. Only building secretaries, principals and family members know the winners beforehand.
"Each recipient is completely surprised when we arrive," she said. "It makes for an incredibly rewarding experience to be surrounded by students, family and co-workers and to hear excerpts from the winning nominations."
She said each educator receives a plaque from the Civic Association and is invited to ride on the Golden Apple July Fourth float.
"We are thrilled to be able to recognize those who work tirelessly with our children to prepare them for the future ahead," she said.
In addition to Scarpitti, 12 teachers were surprised by Golden Apple awards: Becky Ruf, Barrington; Christy Kish, Greensview; Greg Oyster, Hastings; Birti Hardie, Jones; Becky May, Tremont; Susie Nybell, Wickliffe; Eva Frustaci, Upper Arlington High School; Sylvia Cover, St. Agatha; Diane Bogucki, St. Andrews; Kathy Yant, The Wellington School; and Sally Workman, Riverside Methodist Childcare.
A special Golden Apple Award was given to the family members of Barrington teacher Megan Fedorko, who died Nov. 29, 2012.
Scarpitti is retiring at the end of the school year after 35 years in education, all with Upper Arlington schools. He began his career at Burbank as an elementary teacher in 1978, then taught math and science at Hastings Middle School before becoming assistant principal at Hastings. He became principal at Greensview Elementary in 1990, working in that position for 18 years.
"I was very delighted to spend what would be the final five years of my career at Windermere," he said.
Scarpitti said his best memories will always be "related to watching the success, progress and achievement of students I have worked with over the years."
"That includes helping students prepare for a science fair project, coaching a MathCounts team, students doing well on a math or life science test, watching youngsters ski for the first time at Mad River Mountain, playing their first middle school basketball game and many other Hastings sporting events," he said. "Or watching a school play, band or orchestra concert and enjoying the fun of family festivities such as the Windermere Fall Family Festival, Kidfest, Pancake Breakfast, Wish Run or Greensview Gatheroo."
He said Windermere's strengths and successes come from the school community.
"Excellent teachers that have great passion for helping all boys and girls be successful, parents that support our core mission and a very vibrant and active PTO with so many outstanding activities and events for our school," he said. "We have a strong sense of community in our building, focus on continuous improvement, school pride and school-community citizenship, along with a celebration of a youngster's academic, music and or visual/performing arts talents and global awareness."
He said staff members focus on building lifelong learners and stress community service and family involvement.
Scarpitti said he plans to stay busy after retirement.
"I'm trying to decide on one or two organizations where I can do volunteer work, travel, possibly work part-time and get my golf game back on par," he said. "I also will attend more of my daughter's horseback riding events and her other high school functions."