Tim Long’s hugs have become the stuff of legend.

Catrina Cooper, a fifth-grade teacher at Anderson Elementary, said Long greeted everyone in Anderson Community School Corp. with open arms. Literally.

“He knew me by name and he always appeared to be a nice and open person,” said Cooper, who has spent six of her 10 years as a teacher with the Anderson district. “Every time he saw me he wanted a hug, which was unexpected, but very welcoming. Sometimes I would see him and I knew he was not going to let me pass without a hug.”

During a special meeting on Tuesday, Long announced his resignation as superintendent, effective Monday. He will stay on as facilities consultant for the upcoming school year, while assistant superintendent Mikella Lowe will take over as interim superintendent.

Cooper also knew Long as a man with an open mind.

“It seemed like he had a genuine concern about each of the different schools,” Cooper said. “His first year, he came around talking to the teachers individually. He asked, ‘Is there any concern you have? If there’s anything I can do please don’t hesitate to call me.’ I felt that was very good.”

Cooper heard of Long’s departure Wednesday morning from her husband. She called the news unexpected and said personnel changes always stir concern.

“I’m kind of sad he’s leaving because you never know who’s going to come next,” Cooper said.

Others applauded Long’s efforts to keep the arts in Anderson.

Donna Healy’s son, Jimmy, plays pipes and saxophone for the Highland High School band. She said Anderson’s music programs have helped his self-confidence.

“My 15-year-old was a very inward person and, once he got into the band program, it opened up a wide view of the world to him,” she said. “One thing that’s very important to us is that we keep the arts. When our son was still at Valley Grove Elementary, we were concerned that, by the time he go into the high school arena, there wasn’t going to be a band program.”

When school budgets are at their tightest, arts — including music, theater and fine arts — are usually the first thing on the chopping block. Healy said Long earned her respect by keeping them a top priority.

“We’ve been very concerned about the bands at the schools. They’ve been saying for two or three years that they’re going to cut band programs,” Healy said. “(Long) was working to try to make sure we would be able to keep the band programs we have now. We have a very good group of instructors and our kids have benefited a lot from that and he’s worked hard to keep it.”

Long’s five-year term saw the construction of three new elementary schools and major renovations to the two high schools. Those improvements have helped Anderson stay competitive.

According to Lowe, Anderson Community School Corp. averages 26 students in its kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade classes. Fourth- and fifth-grade classes average 28 students and secondary classes 27.

But Lowe said the numbers don’t paint a perfect picture of the number of students per class.

“There is some variation there,” said Lowe. “Phys ed, for example, can be more. But these are normal numbers and we’ve been below those averages, for the most part. Last year we did bring in some classroom assistants when class sizes went above the limit for one teacher.”

In a written statement released Tuesday, Long said he takes great pride in the accomplishments made during his tenure in Anderson.

“One of the things I am most proud of is that all ACSC students will be sitting in air-conditioned classrooms and that all buildings now have updated technology,” he said. “On behalf of the children of Anderson, I believe we have accomplished a great deal over the past five-plus years.

“In making this decision now, this will allow the board to begin the search process for my successor and we can all work together for the future.”

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