Sally Plumb signs off

High school attendance secretary retires after 30 years

Sally Plumb has been at Saranac Lake High School long enough to greet a second generation at the beginning of every school day. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

SARANAC LAKE — When Sally Plumb became attendance secretary at Saranac Lake High School, not only were there no computers, but “I was lucky to have an electric typewriter.”

The year was 1988, and Warner Houth was the principal.

“Everything was done by hand,” remembered Plumb. “The report cards and attendance, we did it all by hand.”

Plumb and her husband moved to Saranac Lake in 1980, when their oldest daughter was in kindergarten. “All my kids went to high school here,” she said. Now that she’s about to retire, she reflects that “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a job that I love.”

As she sits at her desk at 2:15 p.m. Monday, the last day of classes before exams, a student comes in to confess he’s forgotten his locker combination. Plumb asks him what number it is, and while he’s gone to find out, she looks up the combination on a list.

The phone rings, and while she’s talking, another student comes in. They make eye contact, apparently communicate something, and he leaves. It’s not uncommon for students to come in just to say hi to her. Plumb’s friendly manner and warm voice, known to all from the school’s public address system, communicate her delight in each of the students.

“Leaving the kids is going to be the hardest thing,” she said. “They’re the main reason I’ve worked here for 30 years.”

The students return her warm regard: In 2016 they asked her to give the commencement speech.

The school, although still open this week and next for exams, has already embarked on the construction work slated for this summer. The front entrance is blocked off, windows are covered with white tarps, and heavy equipment has displaced cars in the faculty parking lot. On June 4, Plumb made her last announcement over the PA system, which was then turned off as a requirement of construction. A video posted to the high school’s Facebook page, of Plumb’s last announcement, garnered 8,400 views.

Although Plumb has retirement plans of gardening, reading and going to see her brother in California, she’s used to having summers off, so the change probably won’t hit her until school starts next fall, without her.

But she’s outlasted four deans — Mark Gilligan, Mark Farmer, John Raymond and John Fitch — and although she avers, “They’ve all been wonderful,” she adds, “I’m done. I’m not breaking in another one.

“One thing,” she said. “I won’t miss getting up at 5:45.”

Whatever she does, she’ll be sure to take her own advice, as shared with the students: “Whatever you do in life, try to do it on time.”

(Correction: John Fitch’s first name was misspelled as Jolen in an earlier version of this article.)