By Collin Brooks
The Johnson City School System will be losing their eyes and ears when Dr. Richard Bales retires at the end of the month, but the school system’s heart is also going into retirement, as Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Evelyn Dugger calls it quits.
“She is very caring and very trustworthy,” said Bales of Dugger, whom he considers to be a great employee but a better friend. “She can hold a confidence and sometimes that is difficult in today’s world of social media. She is just an excellent employee and has been a great educator for our students.
“I think I am probably much easier to replace than she will be.”
Those hardened skills were molded in the Johnson City School System where Dugger graduated in 1965. It was during her senior year, as she participated in a work-study program at Central Office that she got her first taste of her position. She would go to school in the morning and work in Superintendent Howard McCorkle’s office during the afternoon.
After she graduated, she went to work at Diary Queen for the summer, before she received a call from central office, asking her to come back. Almost 48 years later, and serving under nine different Johnson City Superintendents, she will retire.
“When Dr. Bales got to be superintendent, I told him that when he left, I was gone too,” Dugger said. “So when he decided he was gone, that made my decision just really easy.”
Dugger said that she will be 70 in July and will take the time to enjoy the company of her two daughters, three grandsons and one great-grandson.
“I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it and I have life-long friends that I made through the school system,” she said. “But, it’s time to go to the house.”
Dugger discussed memories from all of the administrators that she served, but perhaps as a last secretarial duty, she researched the years of the nine superintendents that she served.
Her first run started under McCorkle who served 18 years as superintendent, and she had some memories about the six other superintendents she served before ending her career with Bales who ended after 12 years of serving the system.
“He is just like my brother,” Dugger said of her boss, Bales, who happened to be born the same year that Dugger graduated high school. “We have had some good people in the school system, we really have. Superintendents, board members and teachers.”
The only time that Dugger left central office was to pursue a job with one of her friends at the United Way in 1967. But she would soon find her way back to her seat. Ted Beach brought her back, so he will always hold a soft spot in her heart. And while working for all the superintendents was a pleasure, some were more memorable than others, including the joy she received working for Dr. Bales and Dr. Dan Russell. Ironically, it was Russell that hired Bales into the system as principal in 1997.
But it isn’t only the school system she has watched change, as Dugger recalled taking lunch breaks and visiting the department stores in downtown Johnson City before stopping at Woolworth’s Lunch Counter when central office was housed in the old Science Hill building — where Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church now stands.
She also remembers Elvin Little serving as interim superintendent from 1982-1983, but he also served as a teacher of Duggers for a year in high school as a driver’s education teacher.
All during her days at central office, she recalls when she first started and how the system would depend on mail to get their messages out. That evolved into a fax machine and later into the internet and e-mail, which Dugger noted made her job a bit easier.
And while some may not consider her an educator, she is that and more, according to Bales.
“We talk about educators being teachers, but she has been involved in so much work for the school system, she has really been what I consider an ideal educator,” Bales said. “She has probably done more for students than all of us put together.”