Journalism Next: 35-year career coming to close at Bayshore High School

Special to the HeraldNovember 11, 2013 

Dawn McMichael retires from Bayshore High this month. Principal David Underhill says someone will replace the senior secretary in the daily tasks, but her historical knowledge and love for Bayshore will be hard to replace. MCKINLEY VACCARO/Special to the Bradenton Herald

Bayshore High School loses a legend this month.

After 35 years of making sure everything at the school runs smoothly, Dawn McMichael is retiring.

McMichael has served Bayshore as senior secretary and is the face visitors see when they enter the school.

She has been through old Bayshore and the making of new Bayshore.

Some students who now attend Bayshore have parents who remember seeing McMichael at the front desk.

Chris Brady, Bayshore athletic director, remembers playing with McMichael's children when the staff had to come in on record days.

"I've known her since I was about 5 or 6," Brady said. "My dad worked here and on record days when the students didn't come to school and teachers would bring their kids. I played with her kids when I was younger."

McMichael's job extends beyond taking calls for Principal David Underhill, shaping his schedule, dealing with substitutes, allowing visitors into the school and handling parents' calls and concerns.

She is the heart and soul of Bayshore. Everything that happens in the school she knows, because the principal knows.

"Someone will replace her in the tasks that she does daily and the job, however, her experience, her historical knowledge of Bayshore and her love and commitment to the school will be very hard to replace," said Underhill.

Charlene Mathias has worked in the office with McMichael and over the years they have become close. Mathias said it will be hard for her to look at that desk after McMichael retires.

"You're never going to find anything like her as far as being a wonderful confidant, loving and caring," Mathias said. "She always checks up on people, even people who aren't here anymore. She truly cares for the students."

Working at a high school isn't the easiest task. Angry parents, dress-code violations and all the flotsam of the job can raise stress levels.

"Every day is a new day. You never get bored working here," McMichael said. "It's like a jungle here, but I thrive on the business."

McMichael's daughter worked with her at the front desk for a few years, but was let go during staff cutbacks at the end of the 2012-13 year.

"The school is where everything happens, not at the ivory tower downtown," McMichael said. "For some kids going to this school is the best part of their day. The school lunch might be the only thing some will eat that day."

Working anywhere for 35 years comes with a lot of changes. For McMichael, she's changed buildings and worked with three principals. She's seen the football team in slumps and on winning streaks. In her career at the school she's seen different generations and the way people change.

"This school has been my life, it's basically been my whole adult life. I started working here when I was 29," she said. "I had opportunities to work at other places, but I never wanted to leave Bayshore. Everyone here is a very close-knit family."

The school will find someone for the job, but not someone who has the relationship McMichael has with Bayshore. For many, it'll be a very sad day on her last day.

McMichael does see a silver lining.

"The first thing I'm going to do is sleep in past 6 a.m.," she said. "I'm going to miss everyone, all the wonderful staff members I've had the chance to befriend, all the students who keep me young. I'm not going to miss the goodbyes though, the transfers, people retiring or just not making it. All those sad goodbyes I won't miss."

She has three weeks left and said she doesn't think about it, but staff and students do, and they will miss her very much.

"I hope through the years that I've been able to make a difference in a student's life, or a staff member's life," McMichael said. "I will truly miss my Bayshore family. It's been one heck of a good ride with them."

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