A former Jacksonville resident and native has come back home, at least professionally.
Former Ward 2 Alderman and Dean of Students at Jacksonville High School, Tony Williams has accepted the position of Dean of Students at Washington Elementary School.
Williams, who has been retired for a number of years and now lives in Springfield, says he stays pretty busy volunteering and serving on several boards, but he was still seeking what his true purpose is for this chapter in his life.
Williams says after thinking and praying about it, that’s when he received a telephone call from long-time friend Mary Camerer, Principal at Washington Elementary asking if he would be interested in serving as Dean of Students. Williams says the offer was hard to pass up since he has a long connection with Washington Elementary.
“I felt really good about it and so I called her back and said yes. The whole thing about considering doing it is, that you have to realize that from my grandmother to my parents through my brother and I and even our grandchildren have all gone to Washington School.
And the comradery that we have with Washington School is a family thing that goes way back to my grandparents. I had even called my younger brother to tell him and he said that is so amazing that you would be at the school that this all started at.”
Williams says his grandmother attended Washington Elementary when the first school building on the site was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s so coming back to the area to work at the school is a homecoming in a number of ways.
“And Jacksonville has always been so much in my family’s heart, so an opportunity to come back and help these young impressionable children that go to this elementary school is truly a blessing, and to see their smiling faces every morning so how could I not?”
Williams says he is very excited to see the school undergoing the current renovations and looks forward to not only seeing what can be considered the third version of Washington but to also see its legacy continue.
He says some things have not changed at all since he attended class there. Washington Elementary School has always been a lighthouse to whatever Jacksonville’s community has looked like. I can remember at the very beginning when I was going to school, we had a Chinese family whose kids went to our school, we had Hispanic kids, we had Black kids, we had White kids, we had low-income kids, we had high-income kids, and we all blended together. I had kids from my kindergarten class and we are still friends to this day, and we are still that close.”
Williams has already started in his new position and says he has also been impressed by the new modular classrooms that Washington is currently occupying while the complete renovation of the school continues.
Williams says at the end of the day, coming back to District 117 has been predominantly for the purpose of serving the students of Washington School, some of which are the children of some of his former students when he served at Jacksonville High School.
He says when all is said and done, he asks that “if my students can’t remember anything else about me, just remember this, I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”