Long serving administrator Stetson set for retirement

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Toni Stetson graduated from Troy State University, she was anxious to expand her horizons far beyond the borders of Pike County. But, as she sought jobs in places afar, she realized that “these people are not my people.”

“I decided to come back home and help the people here if I could,” Stetson said.

That was 38 years ago – and all of those years have been spent in public education and all of them at home in Pike County.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

On Thursday, Sept. 18, Stetson, administrative assistant to the superintendent of Troy City Schools, will be honored with a retirement reception from 3:30 until 5 pm. at the Hank Jones Early Childhood Center and the public is invited.

“I guess I’ve always thought about leaving Pike County but I never did,” Stetson said, laughing. “So, now that I’m retiring, I’ll travel more now but I’ll always come back home.”

Stetson spent the first 17 years of her career with the Pike County School System and the past 21 years with the Troy City Schools.

“I started in education with an internship at Pike County High School in 1970, and I was asked to stay on and I did,” Stetson said. “That was the year the schools were integrated and I’m glad to see the growth and the progress that have been made over time as we have learned to live together.”

Over the years, Stetson has taught in all the Pike County schools except Banks.

However, her foundation in education is in Banks School, which she attended from grades one through nine. She attended high school in Troy.

“Back then, if you provided your own transportation, you could attend the school of your choice,” Stetson said. “So, I’m an alumnus of Charles Henderson High School.”

From Banks School, she served as principal of Collegeview for three years and, from there she went to Troy Elementary School as vice principal and helped to open that school.

When Hank Jones, who was principal of TES, became superintendent of Troy City Schools, Stetson moved to the central office.

She has worn almost every hat in the field of education, except that of superintendent of schools and she came close to wearing that one.

In 1978, she ran for superintendent of Pike County Schools and came close but no cigars.

“I believe there were four men running and, back then, there were few women who challenged for that role throughout the state,” Stetson said.

Stetson has been a teacher, principal and administrative assistant. She has been involved in the areas of curriculum, supervision and evaluation and each has been a learning and growing experience.

Through it all, she said the role of principal has been both the most challenging and the most rewarding.

“Nothing surpasses the importance of a teacher in the classroom,” Stetson said. “But the principal is extremely important because of the size of today’s school and the issues involved and those include legal issues. Those things have to be taken care of in order for the teachers to be able to teach.”

Stetson said the rewards of a career in education come in having opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people.

“Education does make a difference,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see so many children and their children and now their grandchildren who have benefited from their educations because they took advantage of the opportunities before them.”

As far as changes in education, Stetson said what goes around comes around and education, like most things, comes full circle.

“There’s really nothing new as far as basic human values and needs,” she said. “I think that we are now more aware of each other and of the feelings of others. We’ve come a long way in accepting the differences in people and, not just cultural and racial differences, but the uniqueness of individuals.”

Even during her retirement years, Stetson hopes to continue to do volunteer work in areas where she has opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I’ve been ‘in school’ since I was six years old, so I know that retirement is going to be an adjustment,” she said. “My life has revolved around bells and schedules and the beginning and ending of school and holidays. Now, hopefully, I’ll have time for the things that I have a passion for.

“I want to spend more time with my family, travel, go to Alabama football games, maybe go whitewater rafting and take advantage of the opportunities I have to be of help to others.

“I remember, when I was growing up, there were people who touched my life, people who set examples for me. I would hope that I can be that kind of person as I lead a more simple life.”