HES's leading lady retires

Published 1:15 am Monday, May 21, 2007

By By Adam Prestridge
Betty Warren fought back tears Friday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway as she recalled Thursday's announcement of her retirement to faculty and staff at Huxford Elementary School.
Warren was attending her last of many field trips she has attended during her 15 years as Huxford's leading lady.
"Yesterday afternoon, I called a faculty meeting of everybody and I announced my retirement," Warren said Friday afternoon via cell phone. "This was not an overnight decision. I've done a lot of crying and I can't imagine not getting up and going to Huxford."
Warren's not the only one who has shed tears over her tough decision. She said there weren't many dry eyes during Thursday's faculty meeting.
"There were a lot of tears and a lot of them were in disbelief," Warren said. "Parents that are on the trip today, several of them have just held me and we've cried. They understand and they're happy, but then they're not happy because they fear what will happen with the school. The next person is going to do better than I did, I know they will."
Escambia County School's Superintendent Billy Hines said he was taken back by Warren's decision and that it will be hard to find someone to replace her.
"I'm proud for her, but trying to replace someone who has been in our county for 40 years is going to be a hard task to do," Hines said. "It's going to be tough to fill her shoes."
Warren said she called Hines on Monday, but he was in Birmingham on business. She left him a message that she planned to announce her retirement on Monday at the faculty meeting, but that she did not feel that it would fair to do so without telling him first.
"He's my boss and I love and respect him and I wouldn't do that," she said. "Of course, he was somewhat blown away and told me to wait a minute, so we could talk. He asked me not to say anything until he could talk to me on Thursday when he returned and I did."
Warren, who attributes her success to having dedicated employees, has led Huxford Elementary School to three consecutive Torchbearer School awards, one of the most prestigious awards a school can win.
"Did I try to talk her out of it? Yes," Hines said. "She wants to do other things and I wish her all the luck in the world, but if she changes her mind tomorrow, I'll take her back."
Hines met with Warren first thing Monday morning, but he was not able to change her mind.
"I don't' know what the future holds," Warren said. "This is God's will for my life. I don't know why, but I know it is."
Warren, who attended a field trip to DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg and Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega with some of her students Friday, said only a handful of her students have learned of her decision and that it would be too hard to tell them.
"I can't tell them," Warren said. "Some of them know, their parents have told them. I don't know anything about anything that has gone at school today. Not all of the students on this trip know, a couple of them know. Someone asked me, if I would sit down and tell the students, but I can't."
Warren, 61, has been with the Escambia County School System since 1970. She has been teaching, coaching and supervising in education for 41 years and eight months.
"Someone asked me what I was going to do and I told them hopefully I'll have a choice," Warren said. "It's just according to what comes along."
Although Warren did not specify the exact reason for her exit, she did say several factors played key roles in her decision including age.
"It was almost as if I had no choice but to retire and see if I can find employment some place else," Warren said. "Of course, I'm just stupid enough to think somebody will hire me."
Warren said she would begin seeking new employment immediately, but said she has not been contacted by any prospects.
"I will start looking and see what's available," Warren said. "No one's been knocking my door down yet, but I feel like I can get employment."
And for those fearing Warren will leave Atmore, she has no plan to do so.
"I plan to work as long as I can, but I'm getting old," she said. "I certainly have no plans to leave Atmore."
As for recruiting a replacement for Warren, Hines said advertisements would begin next week seeking an administrator for Huxford. He said applications will be accepted for 14 days and a committee will be formed comprised of teachers, school personnel and community leaders that will recommend to him who they believe will be best suited for the school. Hines will then present their recommendation to the board for approval.
Warren's official last day will be June 29 following summer school, which will be held at Huxford Elementary this year.
No matter where the future takes Warren, she made it clear where her heart will be, "Huxford is always going to be my school," she said.

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