About Us

Mr. John J. Ciavarra

John J. Ciavarra served as principal of what was then Devine Elementary School for 36 years. He began this three-decade tenure in 1947.

Upon his retirement in June 1983, Devine Elementary School was renamed John J. Ciavarra Elementary School.

The original building which still houses our elementary was dedicated in 1957.

Before that time, Ciavarra and his predecessors led elementary students at the “Green Alamo” on College Street.

Ciavarra moved to Devine in 1947 as the elementary school principal and coach of all sports.

Only a year later, he married Bernell Bomba. They had four children, all of whom went to school in Devine and graduated from Devine High School.

In 1947 a principal did not have to have a masters degree as one does today. Ciavarra graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania in 1946. He later earned a masters degree from Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos in 1952.

Ciavarra’s storied life began in Palerna, Italy on Dec. 2, 1919. In 1926, at the age of 6, Ciavarra, his parents, a brother and a sister immigrated to the US through Ellis Island.

He graduated from McKeesport High School in Pennsylvania in 1939. He was a four-sport letterman and was elected best athlete of his senior class.

On the way to obtaining his degree, Ciavarra attended Marshall Junior College and the University of Miami on football scholarships.

Along came WWII and Ciavarra heeded the call and served four years in the US Air Force in the Pacific Theatre.

After finishing his four years of military service, Ciavarra played professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization for one year.

The original building which Ciavarra and his students occupied for many years, now houses offices, a library, 12 classrooms, restrooms, and storage. The original structure has been through at least two major renovations and lots of minor improvements. A kinder wing has been added and an outside classroom wing was added to the back of the original campus. Some portables that house special education classrooms, speech services and Pre-Kinder have also been added to the school.

The main hallway of the original building was renovated in 2009-2010.

Since Ciavarra’s 36-year tenure, five others have been at the helm:

Colin Barnhorst 1983-1985

Linda Stanton 1985-2005

Darby MacKaron 2005-2008

Brenda Gardner 2008-2022 (Assistant Principal, 2006-2008)

Magdalena Strickland 2022-Present

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