GENOA – Don Billington recently retired from Genoa-Kingston High School after spending 22 years as its principal. The job comprised much of his career: He joined the district after spending 11 years in the Warren School District coaching and teaching physical education and health. He recently spent a few moments talking with Daily Chronicle reporter Stephanie Hickman about his career and the next stage of his life.
Hickman: What made you want to move to the Genoa area?
Billington: Well, I decided that I wanted to go into the administrative field. Actually, I saw the opening and I knew the area of the state, and the area of the state appealed to me. The school district itself was a smaller district and that appealed to me. So I decided “OK, I’m going to apply for the position.”
Hickman: If you could sum up your time at Genoa-Kingston High School, what have you learned and what are you going to take with you into your retirement?
Billington: There’s been a lot of experiences. I think mainly it’s a community-based district. I think there’s a lot of community support. No matter whether it be the music area, the athletics, the academics, it tends to generate a lot of parental support as well as the businesses and downtown community. You know with this new high school it’s kind of the focal point that the community has a lot of pride in. We have a lot of events here that are non-school. It’s just something the community involvement has probably made the biggest impression.
Hickman: What are some of your accomplishments that you’re most proud of at the high school?
Billington: I enjoy student successes. For whatever area it is. If they are really into music and I see someone who becomes an all-state clarinet player or any particular instrument, I enjoy that. I enjoy this year in our WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering), we had the biology champion in the state. And that’s great. When our athletic teams do well and they see successes, that’s what I enjoy.
I like to see the students succeed. That’s been the most enjoyable part of my job over the last 22 years, and we’ve had a lot of successes.
On the contrary, you have some that are a little bit more disappointing and you have to try to learn from that and build from that.
Hickman: Do you have any special memories from your time at Genoa-Kingston?
Billington: Just the relationships that I’ve made with the staff, the students. I see a lot of students now that are still in the area. They’ve been out, some of them for 20 years now. You know, you develop those relationship ... the interaction and involvement with all the people whether it be staff, students, everyone.
Hickman: Do you keep in contact with a lot of your students?
Billington: I don’t know if I’d necessarily say keep in contact, but you see them around and you’ll run into them at the grocery store and so forth.
Hickman: What’s it like to see them as successful adults?
Billington: Obviously, it’s something that you’re happy to see. And proud to know that we had something to do with that in the district itself. So you’re pleased with that.
But you know I think also the way they treat people. They’ll come up and talk to you. I guess that’s just part of the whole job.
Hickman: Anything else you’d like to add?
Billington: It’s just been a great experience and I just want to thank everyone who’s been involved, because I think it’s an outstanding district and a great community and it’s the people that have made it that way. It’s been a great 22 years.