MADISON, Ala. - Friday was not a goodbye, it was a see you later, as Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker retired from the school system after 31 years of service.
"So on February 28, 2020, we're glad to make it Robby Parker Day, and I'm proud to call you my friend," said Madison Mayor Paul Finley.
Family, friends, students, colleagues, and even past players gathered on Friday at the Madison City School District Office for a retirement reception for Superintendent Robby Parker. They celebrated Parker's dedication to the school system and most importantly, his dedication to the students.
"It goes back to my three boys... Every time we talked about Robby Parker, and these three kids went through his school, the first thing that happened with those boys was a smile on their face," said Mayor Finley.
Smiles could be seen across the room as people thanked Parker for his leadership, graciousness, courage, and love.
"You have been the perfect person for the time that you have been here. You have shown graciousness and courage and love for every single person. And I think that is one reason why everybody in the town loves Robby Parker because Roby Parker loved them first," said former Madison City Board of Education member Connie Speers.
Mayor Finley also recognized Parker's wife, Anita, for her dedication to the school system.
"Every good man has a great woman behind him, and I know for thirty-one years in this school system he's had you behind him, with him, and beside him," said Mayor Finley.
Parker said he never saw being superintendent as part of his plan, but he's grateful for his time in the position.
"I never aspired to be superintendent, but the doors opened. And either I could answer the call or I couldn't, and I did, and I'd do it again," said former Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker.
He assured everyone in attendance that he will always be their "biggest fan," and "no one will ever love Madison more" than him. He happily said he will continue to be around as his grandchildren will be in the Madison City Schools system one day.
Parker is retiring as superintendent to pursue the three things he said make him happy.
"The things I like to do most in life are... I love being a principal, I love teaching, and I love preaching. And that's what I'm gonna do. I announced today that I am going to be the principal at Whitesburg Christian Academy," said Parker.
He will take over as principal on April 6, the day Whitesburg Christian Academy students return from spring break.
"I'm so excited about it because I'm a school teacher, that's what I am, I'm a school teacher, I'm a principal. And I did that for 27 years. I loved every second of it, but when the call came for me to be at the central office I accepted that call. I'd do it again," said Parker. "It was five wonderful years of growth of learning of seeing things different, but for me, it was a season and now I'm so excited to get back with kids and at Whitesburg, I'll be back with kids."
Parker described himself as a "kid person." He said he was in the schools for 27 years interacting with students every day.
"He always felt the importance of being with students. He wanted to see where they were, he wanted to see where our teachers were, he wanted to be in the classroom," said Madison City Schools Board President Ranae Bartlett.
If that doesn't show you how much Parker cares about the students, before he retired he gave his phone number to parents and students for if they ever needed him.
"I love every one of you. I am keeping the same cell number, so call if you need me. Your kids will always be mine and you will always be family," said Parker in a Facebook post.
Parker may be leaving the system but his legacies won't be gone any time soon.
"You know one of his goals was to have a Pre K center that could house all of the people who want Pre K services in Madison, and because he helped pass that property tax increase, that enables us to convert the previous West Madison Elementary into a Pre K center and that's one of the places that he loved to visit," said Bartlett. "I bet he will be one of the first people through the door to visit when it does open. It's one of his lasting legacies."
Among countless other things, he will also be remembered for his "Parkerisms." On each table a the reception was one of Robby's "Parkerisms." Mayor Finley even quoted one of them while he spoke about Parker.
"If you go out and plan green beans, what's gonna come up? Is corn gonna come up? Are turnip greens gonna come up? No green beans are gonna come up. What's my point? You reap what you sow. If you act like a butt, people are gonna be hateful back to you. What you put in is what you're gonna get out," said Mayor Finley.
Parker said the lasting impact for him is the relationships he's had with tens and thousands of people and students.
"No one loved our students more than Mr. Parker. In his short time as superintendent, he has accomplished more than many could accomplish in a decade of service," said Bartlett.
Bartlett described Parker's reception as "a tremendous tribute to a person who has done so much for the City of Madison and for the school system."