Susan Runnels retiring with nearly 35 years as educator

By John Underwood /
Posted 6/6/18

ELSANOR, Alabama — “School’s out for summer; school’s out forever ….” – Alice Cooper.After nearly 35 years as an educator, the last 13 as principal of …

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Susan Runnels retiring with nearly 35 years as educator


ELSANOR, Alabama — “School’s out for summer; school’s out forever ….” – Alice Cooper.

After nearly 35 years as an educator, the last 13 as principal of Elsanor School, Susan Runnels is ready to take a step back from a life devoted to education.

“There comes a time when one needs to step aside and let someone younger take over with fresh ideas,” Runnels said. “Now is that time for me.”

And she is confident that her replacement, Charlotte Odom, long time reading coach at Robertsdale Elementary School who has spent the last few years as assistant principal at Foley Elementary, will step in and fill those shoes.

“I’m excited for these students and I’m excited for the future of Elsanor School,” Runnels said. “This is such a great school and such a close-knit community devoted to their children’s education and I’m confident that Charlotte will be a perfect fit in this environment.”

For Runnels, retirement means taking a step back from a lifetime devoted to education. A native of Fairhope, she is the daughter of former Baldwin County Assistant School Superintendent Wesley Grant.

“Both of my parents were educators, so it’s something that we grew up with,” Runnels said.

And while both of her sisters have had satisfying careers as teachers in the Baldwin County School System, Runnels said, she knew early on that she wanted to devote herself to administrative work.

“When I was in my 20s, I was applying for curriculum jobs, knowing that I wouldn’t get them, but also knowing that’s what I wanted to do with my career,” Runnels said.

After graduating from Auburn University, she did spend 20 years in the classroom before getting her first job as an assistant principal, two years at Bay Minette Middle, a year at Perdido and six years in Monroe County before teaching 11 years at Fairhope Elementary.

She then served as assistant principal at Fairhope Intermediate, J. Larry Newton (who was her father’s boss as School Superintendent), Daphne Elementary and Daphne Intermediate before landing the job at Elsanor School 13 years ago.

“This is just a happy, happy place and I might be a little biased, but in my opinion it is the best school in Baldwin County,” she said. “And while I know (Odom) will do a great job, giving up this job feels like giving all of these students up for adoption. It is going to be hard letting someone else raise them.”

Among the accomplishments she is most proud of, Runnels said, is obtaining a Lighthouse Grant for teaching Leadership Classes based on Sean Covey’s “7 Habits of Happy Kids,” and getting a 10-room addition lovingly called The South Wing by faculty, students and parents.

“It’s been such a great thing for our school and it gives us so much more room to work with,” she said.

Aside from spending time with her family, Runnels said, she hopes to devote more time to her other passion, traveling.

“We already have a trip planned to Iceland in February,” she said. “I want to go all of the places that I haven’t been able to go until now.”