By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, New Albany High School changed forever.
It has nothing to do with a physical alteration to the building or the new International Baccalaureate program. It had to do with the retirement of longtime teachers Bob Dusch and Lee Kelly. Combined, the two have 87 years service to the school.
Not only are the two “NAHS legends,” but also the best of friends. Since 1980, their classrooms have been next to one another and each morning for the past 33 years or longer, the two have shared coffee and stories prior to the start of the school day.
“We’ve been a sounding board for one another for a long time,” Kelly said. “One of us always talks the other off the side of the building. We both have a great love for New Albany High School. We both said we would retire the same year.”
And they held true to their promise, although the exact date of their exit has changed a few times in the last two years. The two actually thought last year would be their last, but said after speaking to Principal Janet Page, they decided to stay another year. Then they thought about leaving at Christmas break in 2012, before deciding to stay the entire year.
Kelly, who has been the voice of the Bulldogs and operated the WNAS radio and television studios/classroom at the school since the 1973-74 school year, said retirement started creeping into his mind driving home from Bedford following a basketball game last year.
Dusch said he knew it was time to leave after not wanting to go back to school after spring break this year. Oh yes, there was that time last year after a rough day when Dusch walked across the hall to Kelly’s classroom.
“After sixth period, I walked over there and said ‘let’s go quit,’” he said laughing.
“Others have told us we would know when it’s time,” Kelly said. “Every time a friend would retire we would look at each other and say, ‘We’re not ready yet.’ There have been a lot of changes in education.”
Dusch is finishing his 47th year teaching government, economics and coaching tennis at New Albany. He is in the Indiana Tennis Hall of Fame.
He said he thinks he has the unofficial record in terms of teaching tenure at the school. He also said the morning conversation, with coffee and co-workers, in the radio room are legendary.
“It started years ago when Lee was on the air at 6 in the morning. We called it coffee with Kelly,” Dusch said. “There are stories we can’t tell you.”
“We have a lot of the same group come in here each morning,” Kelly said. “I will miss that. We start our day off lying to each other and solving the world’s problems.”
Kelly has been through a lot of changes since the fall of 1973 when he began. WNAS 88.1 FM is more than just a radio station — the school and Floyd Central also operate a cable TV channel on Insight.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more here,” Kelly said. “It’s like the real business world for these kids. They get to experience the profession. The administration and powers to be have been great to work with. They haven’t looked over our shoulder and they let us operate and try new things.”
“The principals have been good to us,” Dusch said of his time at NAHS. “They have allowed us to teach and have been supporters of us. They have left us alone.”
Kelly, 65, said he and Dusch have been “best friends forever.”
“When Bob coached swimming in the summer at Colonial Club, he had me be his assistant and we were together every morning. That was a fun time,” he said. “He has had my children and I have had his in class.”
Dusch said he will still get together with Kelly at least once a week in the morning. But instead of the radio room, the two will probably wind up at McDonald’s.
Dusch, 69, is a graduate of New Albany and returned four years later to begin his teaching career. He has spent 51 years of his life in the building. He still plans on coaching both the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams in retirement.
While the two will miss the morning bull sessions, they will miss the kids even more. Dusch said being around the students has kept him young.
“This is a good school. We do a lot of good right here,” he said. “I challenge the young teachers to hang in there and keep it going.”
The two don’t seek it, but they said they are humbled to be told they are “New Albany legends.” While teachers may still congregate in the radio room with Jason Flener, who will take over for Kelly, next year to discuss current events, the mornings will definitely have a different feel without Kelly and Dusch. The school will never be the same.
“You don’t realize how many people you impact,” Kelly said. “I will miss the interaction with the kids. It’s been a fun ride and I recommend it highly.”