In a field where educators often move around, Cindy Long has done something out of the ordinary: She's ending her career without ever changing schools.
Long, principal at Northside High School, will retire at the end of the school year, concluding a 24-year career spent at Northside. For Long, who started at the school as a math teacher in 1994, getting close to retirement age caused her to re-evaluate her role at the school and look at beginning a new chapter in her life.
"I felt like it was time," Long said. "I just want to sit back and take it easy."
Walter Davie, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa County School System, said the Northside community loves Long, who he called a dedicated educator.
"She’s done a really great job at that school," Davie said. "She will really be missed, but we’re excited about her entering retirement, too."
Not only has Long worked years as an employee at Northside, but she was also a student. Graduating from high school in 1982, Long initially delayed going to college, working full-time as a secretary at PPG Glass in Cottondale in order to put her husband through school.
By 1990, Long was ready to go to school and knew exactly what she wanted to do: teach.
"I always enjoyed being around young people," she said. "I knew it would be secondary education."
In 1994, Long earned her bachelor’s degree in math education from the University of Alabama, where she would later earn a master’s degree in education administration. After graduation, she was hired at Northside to be a math teacher, where she worked with many of the faculty members who have remained today.
"When people come here, they typically stay," she said. "When I started teaching in 1994, many of the teachers that taught me were still here, so that was a pretty interesting relationship."
In 2009, Long earned a promotion to assistant principal at Northside. By 2014, she was running the school as principal.
Despite her leadership role in the school, Long is hesitant to take credit for any of the school’s successes.
"I don’t want to take credit for things a lot of us did together," she said. "We did a lot to improve the school."
One such improvement was Northside bringing back advanced placement courses during the the last few years. These advanced courses allow students the opportunity to earn college credits and receive advanced instruction. The school also offers dual enrollment with colleges.
Through all of the school’s accomplishments, Long credits the ideas of her staff as being key to the success.
"It has been a collaborative effort," she said.
Long describes her philosophy as principal as focusing on teamwork and active involvement.
"I think a good principal would be someone that works alongside the faculty, someone they can depend on that will get in it with them and the everyday problems and situations they go through," she said.
Going into retirement, Long is looking forward to having more time to do things she enjoys, such as travel and remodeling projects.
"When you’re a principal, you don’t have a lot of time for those kinds of things," she said.
When asked what she would miss the most, Long said it would be those who have been her constant support for the last 24 years.
"I will miss the people," she said. "There is no doubt about that because they are like my family."
The Tuscaloosa County School System has started searching for Long’s successor.
Reach Drew Taylor at email@example.com or 205-722-0204.