As Wrightsville Elementary School principal Donald Gillett steps into a classroom dressed in his Hank Aaron Atlanta Braves jersey, a kindergartner pops up from the reading mat to show off his own DeSean Jackson Philadelphia Eagles garb.
"Mr. Gillett!" the student exclaims, tugging at his jersey to show Jackson's number, 10, emblazoned on the front.
In another classroom, Gillett greets first-grader Matthew Zerbe, who dressed up as his principal for career day this year.
Matthew came to school in a suit — even though Gillett said he's not the type to normally wear more than a tie — complete with orange — and purple-painted fingernails, in honor of Gillett's love for Clemson athletics.
The nail painting was a mimicry of the manicure Gillett receives every Friday from students who signed up to paint their principal's fingernails, a tradition Gillett said started two years ago when he lost a bet with students. He always bets against Penn State in football games to "agitate" his students, and when Penn State won (he can't remember whom they played) he had to wear blue and white polish on his nails.
Retirement: Jersey days and fingernail painting are the types of things Gillett will leave when he retires at the end of this school year. Gillett, 61, joined what he calls the Wrightsville family in the fall of 2002, and said his motivation comes from the students in kindergarten through fifth grade who fill the building every weekday.
"The kids know that it's their building," he said.
Gillett is reluctant to talk about his own leadership of the building, which is part of the Eastern York School District. When he mentions school safety, he pays an immediate compliment to the services of the Wrightsville police and fire departments.
Though he notes the school has performed above state standards in testing each year he's been principal, he said all of the credit goes to his experienced staff.
The office staff members "run the show." The maintenance staff goes above and beyond to allow him to fulfill promises, such as sleeping on the roof when students reached reading goals last year.
"I've just been very fortunate to drive the bus," Gillett said.
Changes: As he prepares to leave, Gillett said he'll remember and miss the people the most. Several of those people have earned nicknames from Gillett, which often begin when they share a name with a famous baseball player. A self-described baseball junkie, Gillett calls one teacher "Casey at the bat," a student "Pete" because her middle name is Rose, and another student "Miguel" because her last name is Cabrera.
Gillett said he wants to leave in good graces and on his own terms — the Google documents and electronic teacher forms and other technologies are starting to take too much time for the man who says he can't type.
"They need somebody to take them to the next level with this stuff," he said, waving a hand at his computer.
But despite the changes ahead, Gillett said he's sure students in the building will succeed because of the staff teaching them. If he tells teachers they need to get to point B in terms of student progress — or C or D — they'll get there.
"Just tell them where you've got to go, get out of the way, and they will get you there," Gillett said.
After school: Though he won't have an office anymore, students will likely see Gillett after this year.
"I'll get the athletic schedules," he said. "I'll go to plays."
And the math-teacher-turned-principal might start tutoring a student who's having a little trouble with school, he said.
"I'm not moving to Mars," he added, saying he'll be just across the river in Lancaster County.
Gillett and his wife will visit some ballparks in his new spare time, and lighthouses, too. They've planned a trip to Minnesota where there are a few old ballparks, he said, and he has some other ones on the list in Indiana and Alabama.
Until that time, Gillett will continue enjoying his school family — starting with being the "mystery reader" in second grade to read a book about Hank Aaron.
"It's always been about the kids," he said. "Always about the people inside the building."