Just a few days before she was to have moved out of her office at Austin Elementary School, former principal Alison Camp still hadn’t packed a single thing into the boxes that were stacked on the floor.

“Yeah, the plan was that I would be out of here by (early the next week),” Camp said the day after the 2021-22 school year ended. “But, clearly, I haven’t packed a thing.”

She was a bit busy meeting with teachers and staff, wrapping up another school year at Austin. Only this time it was her last school year at Austin.

Camp was packing up her office because on April 14 she had been tasked by Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. David Young to lead a major research effort to study possible changes in the grade configuration for students in the middle grades (5-8).

Camp, who served as the principal at Austin Elementary for six years beginning, assumed her new role as Middle Years Transition Specialist in early June after helping lead an 8th-grade trip to Washington, D.C. She is being replaced as the principal at Austin by Clay Johnson, who served last year as an assistant principal at Abilene High.

While Camp is looking forward to leading to her new role, she is also remembering fondly her days at Austin.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” she said. “I’m excited about the future and looking forward to what that research effort could mean for our students, but (Austin) is a special place. It’s the kids and the staff and the parents that make it special. It was hard saying goodbye, but the nice thing is that I’ll still be an Austin parent, so I’ll still have relationships here.”

Leaving at the end of the 2021-22 school year was a bit easier for Camp, considering the previous year saw her leading the Austin community through the challenges of the COVID pandemic at the same time as they were transitioning from the original building into a new one.

“I’m glad that we’ve been in our building and things are starting to return to normal with some of our activities,” Camp said. “We were able to have our ‘50s Day celebration in the building and our Senior Walk. It would have been hard to have left in the hard years of COVID, so it’s easier to step away knowing that each year since COVID things have gotten a little better. And this building is starting to feel more like home to our community.”

She also said she is more than comfortable leaving the Austin campus in the hands of Johnson, who just finished his 19th year in the district. He was the associate band director at Cooper High School for two years, then the director for 14 years before spending two years as an assistant principal at Bowie Elementary and one year at AHS.

“I’m excited for Clay; he will fit right into the Austin community,” Camp said. “He’s going to continue a culture here where everyone feels welcome.”

The biggest challenge for Camp in moving to the One AISD Center is that she won’t be involved in the daily hustle and bustle of campus life. She has been an educator for 18 years and joined AISD in 2006 as a teacher at Fannin Elementary. She served as instructional coordinator at Ortiz Elementary for two years and Ward Elementary for four years before becoming principal at Austin. That’s a lot of time in front of children each day.

“That will be a little bit strange,” Camp said. “I’ve worked there (One AISD) before and I remember hearing kids in the building when a group came to sing and I thought, ‘I have to go out there and see them.’ I’ll miss the pace on the campus so being able to sit and do some research will probably be a little bit different. But I’ll get used to it, and I’m looking forward to researching an issue that’s so important to the future of the Abilene ISD.”