Jackson School’s principal retires after 21 years

       If it were baseball, Anne Dancy's name might be in the record book somewhere.

Twenty-one years after she became Jackson Elementary's principal and a week before she'll retire from the position, Anne Dancy stands on the front walkway to the school. The entrance is at upper right.
Westside Pioneer photo

       But District 11 doesn't keep stats on which principals have been at the same schools for the greatest amount of time, so there's no knowing where Anne Dancy's 21 years at the helm of Jackson Elementary would be on the longevity curve.
       In any case, that streak will end with her retirement after the current school year. The last day for students is May 23.
       “It's not at all because I'm unhappy here,” Dancy said in a recent interview. “I love this school and I love my job. Not many people have the opportunity to be in one place so long. I've even had a student who came back to teach here.”
       She could have left a year ago. District 11 offers administrators who've given notice a “transition year” at a different school. Dancy chose to stay at Jackson.
       As for what happens next, she admitted she doesn't have any detailed plans - just a feeling that “perhaps it's time for me to do different things. What they are, I don't know. When I'm here [at the school], I'm here. I'm looking forward to seeing what other things are out there that I can explore.”
       Moving here from Maryland, she started working for District 11 in 1978. She was a special-education teacher at first, then an assistant principal at three elementaries (Madison, Monroe and Edison). Her sojourn at Jackson started in the spring semester of 1990, when she replaced Kay Branine on a temporary basis. “I didn't even know this school existed,” she laughed. “It was a well-kept secret.”
       But her first impressions were good ones. She liked the Holland Park elementary's “nice-looking” architecture and was “inspired by the staff that was here.” So she applied to stay on as principal, and the district approved her hiring.
       Since then, her job has seemingly been on auto-pilot. The district never suggested she go anywhere else, and she never brought up the idea herself. In recent challenges, she oversaw the school's six-room addition project in 2009-10 and guided the introduction of technological innovations (such as “smart boards”) that have come to the school with the aid of grant money.
       “I would think about it from time to time [how long she'd been at the school], but I felt very connected to the staff and students,” Dancy said. “I felt this was where I belonged and could be of service.”
       A search is under way to find a new Jackson principal Her thoughts on that? “The next person who comes here is getting a gift.”

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