At the end of the school year, South Bristol’s eighth-graders won’t be the only ones departing South Bristol School. Connie Kennedy, the school’s administrative assistant, will retire June 30 after 33 years at SBS.
Kennedy, a South Bristol native, was first hired at the school when she moved back to South Bristol after her divorce. She heard that the secretary at the time was about to depart and approached the principal about taking the job. Kennedy worked part-time her first year before going full-time for the next 32 years.
“I really didn’t think it would last this long, but it’s been quite a journey,” Kennedy said.
During her three decades at SBS, Kennedy has watched the school evolve in many ways. When she started, Kennedy was using a manual typewriter and a mimeograph. The school eventually got an electric typewriter and then a computer, as well as a photo copier.
The school building itself has also undergone changes during Kennedy’s tenure. Her first workspace was in the corner of what is now the SBS library.
“That was before we had the gym and the physical education classes met in there, so some days it could get pretty loud,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy would later transition into her current office. The school has built a new gymnasium, a stage, and a cafeteria throughout the years.
In her 33 years at the school, Kennedy worked with seven different principals. Each person brought his or her own unique take to the job, she said.
Kennedy remains friends with Pam Sperry, who was principal for a total of eight years, including her most recent tenure from 2001-2005. Current Principal Scott White, who has been at the school for more than a decade, brings a good sense of humor to the job, Kennedy said. When she submitted her letter of resignation, White jokingly told her he wasn’t going to accept it.
“Connie has been everything to everybody for the past 33 years! From handing out Band-Aids and ice packs to students to counseling parents who seek advice on how to handle their children, she’s always been there with a sympathetic ear and helpful hand,” White said.
The faculty, staff, and students at SBS are a “close-knit family,” Kennedy said. Everybody calls her Connie, with the exception of the students who were in class with her children, who called her “Mom.”
Kennedy has seen a number of former students grow up and have children of their own, many of whom are now students at SBS. Two of the school’s current teachers, Carrie Pendleton and Amanda Sykes, attended SBS during Kennedy’s tenure.
“It’s great to see the people you knew when they were kids grow up, go to college, and then come back here to teach at their school and raise their family,” Kennedy said.
Being a native of the area has given Kennedy an advantage in her work, she said. As she knows many of the students’ parents, and sometimes their grandparents, she is often aware if there is an outside factor impacting a student during the school day.
“It’s a small school. Every child is a unique individual, and they are treated as such,” Kennedy said. “It’s a very unique place to work, and I don’t think I would be as happy if I worked in a larger school.”
Her kindness and dependability are two of the factors that have made Kennedy such a well-liked and respected member of the SBS staff, according to White and Central Lincoln County School System Superintendent Steve Bailey.
“(Kennedy) has woven the web that has developed the school as the closely knit school community that it is,” Bailey said. “She knows the procedures of the front office, helps the principal in whatever way she can, helps with the lunch program, and is the voice of South Bristol School for any incoming calls.
“Connie will truly be missed and we thank her for her many years of service to the school and community.”
Kennedy said she had been thinking about retirement for a while before deciding this was the school year she was going to say goodbye. She officially informed the school committee of her decision earlier this year.
Kennedy will continue to live in South Bristol, but plans to spend the winters visiting her sons, Shaun and Shane, and their families in Florida. She also plans to visit her daughter, Kelley, and her family in Idaho, spend more time with her grandkids, and travel.
After an “intense” search, Katie Rodrigue has been hired as the school’s new administrative assistant, White said. Kennedy will spend time training Rodrigue in June.
“(Rodrigue) is a well-liked and respected member of the community, and we’re very excited to have her here,” White said.
The school will host a community celebration for Kennedy from 5-6 p.m., Monday, May 22, before the spring concert.