MOUNT WASHINGTON - After 36 years in education Bullitt East principal Debby Atherton is calling it quits... sort of.
Atherton, who has twice come out of retirement to lead the Charger nation, said that while she will retire on June 30, she’s not going anywhere.
“I’ll still be around,” the Mount Washington resident said.
Asked how she felt about retiring, Athertson said it was “Bittersweet,” adding that while she’s excited to have the opportunity to spend more time with her family, she will miss the staff and students.
Atherton said she will miss the students most.
“That’s been my whole career,” Atherton said. “My favorite part of being in education has been the relationship with the students and working to make a difference in their lives.”
As for what she’ll do next, Atherton said she doesn’t plan to do much of anything for a while except hang by the pool and visit her grandchildren in Tennessee, Virginia and Florida.
Never one to sit idle, Atherton joked that she’ll probably get bored after a couple of weeks, but the long-time educator pointed out that she hasn’t had two weeks off in 30 years.
Atherton said she’s not sure of exactly what she’ll do during her retirement, but she is looking forward to enjoying some free time.
Atherton said she has been asked to be a team leader for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and she may do some consulting for the Kentucky Department of Education.
She’s also considered volunteering.
“I’ll dabble in several things,” she said. “And of course I’ll be keeping up with the Chargers.”
Atherton first joined BE as principal in 2003 after coming out of retirement in 2001. Two years later she went back into retirement when Dave Marshall became principal.
When Marshall accepted a position with Bullitt County Public Schools around 2007, Atherton was called back to lead Bullitt East.
Asked if retiring was harder or easier than the last time, Atherton said it was easier.
She said she didn’t feel her work was finished when she last retired and now she feels comfortable leaving BE considering the strides that were made during her tenure.
“We’re in good shape,” she said.
Atherton said she strove for constant improvement leading Bullitt East and while her mission was to get BE on the upswing she couldn’t say her work was ever done.
“You’re never done,” she said. “The day you think you’re as good as you can get is a bad day. That day should not ever come for anybody.”
Despite the long hours and the stress of being an administrator, Athertson said serving as principal has absolutely been a fun ride.
Atherton said the hardest part of retiring is leaving the people she’s come to know so well over the years.
“We have great students and faculty,” Atherton said, “There isn’t a person who comes into BE and doesn’t brag about how great our students are.”
Additionally, Atherton said she felt the school’s culture was unmatched and she hopes that will not change when incoming principal Willie Foster takes over.
Atherton said she was confident the former Bullitt East student and teacher would carry on that culture, stating, “He knows all about it.”
Atherton, a native of Lexington, first got on with BCPS a quarter century ago when she took a position as a math and science teacher at Mount Washington Middle School after she and her husband Ed moved to Louisville.
In her 36 years Atherton has been an administrator, a teacher, a director of secondary education and a consultant. In that time her career has taken her from Scott County to Bullitt County, to Spencer County to Larue County and in between.
Asked if she has any regrets looking back on her career, Atherton said she doesn’t believe in regrets.
As for her favorite job, Atherton said leading Bullitt East is by far the job she likes best.