GENOA – When Don Billington took the extra time to greet Carinna Corbett in the halls of Genoa-Kingston High School, it meant something to her.
Corbett, a high school junior, worked closely with Principal Billington this year as president of the DeKalb County Partnership for a Substance Abuse Free Environment, which he helped advise and sponsor.
But the retiring principal had a way of making most students feel special, Corbett said.
“He’ll be missed by a lot of people,” she said.
Corbett was among many students, faculty and community members who came to show their support and wish Billington well Thursday at an open house celebrating his retirement from the high school after 22 years as principal.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Billington said.
Billington began his career in education 35 years ago as a teacher and football coach at Monmouth Warren High School after earning his master’s degree from Western Illinois University.
After becoming principal in 1991, he has made a lasting impression on many people over the years, including the school’s guidance and athletic secretary, Christi Volkening.
“I’ve never met anyone who cares more about their job, their kids, the community and building more than him,” she said.
Superintendent Joe Burgess, who has known Billington for 30 years, said his friend and colleague is a rare find.
“When you think of Don, you think of a person of integrity and character,” he said. “Those two traits you can’t replace.”
Current middle school Principal Brett McPherson is set to replace Billington on July 1, which Burgess said he expects to be a smooth transition. With just about a month left before he leaves the halls of the high school, Billington said many people have asked where he plans to go from here.
“They want to know what I want to do,” he said. “But I’m not very sure.”
He said he and his wife, Marcy, most likely will travel more, specifically to various Major League Baseball stadiums across the country, which has become a hobby of theirs.
The two like to visit baseball parks and national parks, and Marcy Billington said she is looking forward to seeing more of them with her husband in the near future.
“It’ll be something else we can work on now that he’s retired,” she said.