Longtime Alma assistant superintendent and athletics director Mike McSpadden announced Thursday he is retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

McSpadden has been a prominent fixture with Alma schools since 1979. He served as the school’s basketball coach until 1990, when administrative duties pulled him away.

He also served as an assistant principal at Alma High School in the 1980s.

“I was driving to the state track meet three weeks ago, and I just realized driving down the highway that it was time,” McSpadden said. “I think every leadership role has a shelf life. When you make that decision, there’s no reason to delay.”

“It wasn’t just ‘my program,’ it was our program,” Alma boys basketball coach Stan Flenor said. “I think that’s what makes the Alma community so special.”

A Russellville native, McSpadden was hired on as assistant football and basketball coach at Alma in 1979. The school has had but two superintendents during that time, Charles B. Dyer and David Woolly, two high school principals, Leonard Daniel, and Jerry Valentine, and just three head football coaches — Frank Vines, Todd Dillback and Doug Loughridge.

McSpadden hired Flenor, then 22, to become his junior high basketball coach in 1985.

“When I came over in the spring of 1984, I student-taught here,” Flenor said. “Dr. McSpadden invited me to become a volunteer coach. As the spring unfolded, Glenn Fenter decided to go back to grad school, and Dr. McSpadden had enough confidence in me to hire me as a junior high basketball coach. We’ve been friends and co-workers since that time.”

“The timing of this is a little unusual,” Woolly said. “(But) I don’t want anybody to think that this happened because he did something wrong. I think it’s important for people to know that. He’s done things for Alma schools the rest of us wish we could do.”

Valentine, who is retiring this year following a 33-year run as the school’s principal, praised McSpadden for his tireless hours.

“At the end of the day, there are very few people who can work harder than Mike McSpadden,” Valentine said. “If there was an event, Mike was going to be there. When it came time to turn the lights out, Mike was going to be the guy to turn the lights out. I have tremendous respect for Dr. McSpadden.”

“I think Alma is a unique place in many ways,” McSpadden said.”One of the things that make us unique is we truly strive to be the very best in every single activity that we participate in. (But) truthfully, all that starts with (former Superintendent) Charles B. Dyer’s philosophy.”

Valentine added that McSpadden was a really good coach prior to becoming an administrator.

“The thing I remember about Mike when I was coaching, was what a competitor he was,” Valentine said. “Mike hated to lose; he still hates to lose. He did not shy away from the competition. He would go anywhere to play anybody. He’s carried that personality over to being an athletic director.”

McSpadden said he doesn’t believe he’s “fully ready to retire.”

“I still love to teach and be around kids,” he said. “I think I’ve had the greatest job on the planet. My job has been to work with coaches every day, to attend sporting events, which I love, and watch our kids from little league sports all the way through. My three sons (Mikell, Matthew, and Mason) went to the same school all the way through.”

“I’ve known Mike for 40 years since he came to Alma,” Woolly said. “In the last few years, he’s been valuable to me, but in addition to that, he’s been the ultimate Alma school district professional. There’s not anybody that doesn’t realize that his heart is about Alma schools — that’s all he cares about.

“That’s what we’re all about, but he’s a perfect example of that.”