FRONTENAC — Principal Mark Allai stood next to his Honda Civic Wednesday as students from Frank Layden Elementary covered it with their names.

Allai will be retiring at the end of this school year after working in Frontenac for 19 years. Instead of going out quietly, Allai has opted to let every student from the elementary school sign his car in silver permanent marker.

“It’s a nice act of closure for the kids,” Allai said. “It’s an easy way for them all to say goodbye.” Almost 425 students and faculty from Frank Layden made their mark on Allai’s car. He encouraged creativity beyond just students writing their names — they covered the car with giraffes, birds and messages saying “we will miss you so much” and “I hope you come back.”

Allai was born and raised in what he calls the “Frontenac suburb” of Pittsburg and attended Pittsburg State University.

“After 10 years at Pitt State, I had more hours in education than any other field,” Allai said. “My wife was a teacher and it just seemed to be the logical thing to fall into.”

He worked as a teacher in Liberal, Missouri, for eight years, then helped to develop counseling programs in the Pittsburg school district. He started at Frank Layden in 1997 and worked as a school counselor for two years before being “demoted” to principal.

“I’ve always said Frontenac is the center of the universe,” Allai said. “The town has always been extremely supportive of the school system.”

Allai will be replaced in the fall by Courtney McCartney, who will be coming over from Lakeside Elementary in Pittsburg. McCartney served as Lakeside principal for 18 years.

Allai said he will miss the children and that he isn’t retiring for any reason other than it is time.

“I love my job,” Allai said. “But I love my wife more.”

He said he and his wife plan to spend retirement traveling, camping and visiting his three children and four grandchildren.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance