Originally Published: May 29, 2013 10 p.m.
While sorting through her office Wednesday before retiring, outgoing Prescott High School Principal Totsy McCraley reflected on how she'll miss the students and the people she works with.
"(High school students) keep you young," McCraley said. "The language, the clothing, the slang, what's the latest in music and movies. You always have a chance to look through their eyes at their world."
McCraley said working with students means "you need to be open to change and be flexible."
When McCraley was in high school, a teacher told her she'd make a good teacher. After exploring different careers in college, McCraley said she "became a teacher and never regretted that."
About 42 years ago, McCraley began teaching in Kingman. She then moved on to a post in Bullhead City for seven years, and subsequently relocated to Yuma, where she served as a teacher and school administrator for 24 years.
McCraley said she and her husband Tom will stay in Prescott, and she's considering what she'll do next.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to find some things I can do with my experiences to help (school) districts," McCraley said.
Prescott Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Joe Howard came to the district with McCraley 10 years ago when they were both hired as principals.
"Totsy McCraley did amazing things with her PHS team," Howard said. "I have seen her address the toughest situations and accept incredible awards for many victories over the years. She always addressed every topic with the utmost class."
"Totsy McCraley never shied away from a task," Howard said. "She is one of the hardest workers I have ever known."
McCraley said of her tenure that she's most proud of school renovations, adding two instructional coaches to help new teachers adjust, helping get the ROTC program started, bringing back programs like the Academic Decathlon, and developing curricula to meet students' needs.
"We've added more AP courses, and some fundamental-level courses for kids who are struggling," McCraley said. "We want to put them in the most successful environment that we can."
McCraley said the hardest situations to deal with have been students' deaths from accidents, natural causes, and suicide.
"Losing any student has been hard," McCraley said.
Budget cuts and constraints also have been difficult.
"You can't provide quality programs and the kinds of programs people would like to have if you're constantly in budget-cut mode," McCraley said.
In the past four years, 21 teaching positions at PHS were eliminated because of budget cuts, McCraley said.
"The hardest thing I've had to do is walk up to people and tell them they don't have a job," McCraley said. "I never signed on for that."
While Prescott High School has strong community support, as the only public high school in town, "there is an expectation that this school is able to provide everything for everybody to prepare them for what they'll do when they graduate," McCraley said. "It's not like in Phoenix, where there are multiple options for high schools within a district. Here you have to do it all, and you have to do it well."
McCraley said she's enjoyed working with a great staff.
"It's been a fabulous 10 years," McCraley said. "I have always felt like I had died and gone to heaven when I got this job, to be up here with these kids in this community. It's just been wonderful."