Kelly Hussey has worn many hats during his 38 years at Morris Community High School, including P.E. teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal and athletic director.
For the past 13 years, he held the reins as principal of MCHS – a tenure that is now ending.
Well-known among the MCHS community for his humor, enthusiasm and love of music, Hussey will retire at the end of this week. He has had a role in the education of roughly 8,000 Morris students over the course of his career.
“To know you’ve participated in something so important to the community, to families and so critically important to the lives of students is just awesome,” Hussey said, “It is the thing I will miss most, the relationships on a day-to-day, even moment-to-moment basis.”
Hussey said he wasn’t the best student when he attended high school in Charleston, Illinois. He goofed around and didn’t take schoolwork seriously until his junior year when he “woke up.” He went on to graduate from Eastern Illinois University and taught at Sparland High School for two years before Morris. Hussey said his experience helped him empathize with students who don’t quite fit the mold.
“Education is a process. I believe in giving kids latitude and letting them grow at their own pace instead of pigeonholing them into what they should be,” he said.
Among the achievements Hussey is most proud of during his career is the prom coach bus package. Students had historically driven themselves to prom, a system Hussey described as a nightmare. Students would get in wrecks, limos would be dangerously overstuffed and some prom attendees would be stranded at the venue.
In 1989 then-guidance counselor Hussey and the student council started a bus system to safely transport students to and from prom. Two years later, they successfully lobbied the school board to make the bus mandatory for all prom goers.
Hussey also said he is extremely proud of the teachers and staff, the security updates to the building, the extracurricular activities as well as the school’s general uplifting atmosphere.
As for the “coolest thing” that he’s experienced at MCHS, Hussey has a few. He said seeing his four children graduate was one. Others were giving speeches, doing backflips and getting to appear in the musical “Grease.”
Another was more recent, when choir director Ben Brown wrote an arrangement of a song Hussey and former student Anthony Kidonakis wrote about Morris High School 20 years ago called “Hallowed Halls.” During one of his last assemblies Hussey got to sing his song and harmonize with the entire Morris choir.
In his last few days in the principal’s chair, Hussey said he often thinks of one of his predecessors: Robert Ciota. Ciota served as principal of MCHS from 1977 to 1990 and passed away in 1991. The Robert and Mellissa Ciota Scholarship is named in his and his wife’s honor.
“I often think about Bob. He was a phenomenal principal and boss. I hope I’ve done him proud,” Hussey said.
Hussey said he has the utmost confidence in his successor, Michael Gourley.
“Morris Community High School won’t miss a beat,” Hussey said, “I love this guy. He’s got a great personality and I know he’s going to do an excellent job.”
Hussey will spend his retirement first and foremost being a grandpa. He will also spend more time playing guitar and writing songs. He said his hardest day in his long career was saying goodbye at his last assembly. Hussey said to him, coming to school every day wasn’t work.
“Looking back, I can’t believe they paid me for the amount of fun I got to have every day,” he said with a laugh, “I’m glad they did though.”