DUNWOODY, Ga. — The weather outside was frightful, but the celebration of retiring Austin Elementary Principal Ann Culbreath was delightful.

Hundreds of cars drove by the school Nov. 30 to celebrate Culbreath as she handed the reins over to assistant principal Avis Moneyham.

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch dropped by to issue a proclamation in Culbreath’s honor and called her out in the council’s regular meeting later that day as an outstanding citizen and valuable contributor to the school.

“We are grateful for her service to our community,” Deutsch said.

Culbreath, whose tenure at Austin spanned 17 years, marked in two stints as teacher, assistant principal and finally, principal, said she was “blown away” by the reception she received on a day that was blustery and rainy.

“I thought it was just going to be a small thing, but it was more than I ever could have imagined,” she said. “I’m still in a state of shock, thinking ‘Did that really happen?’”

In addition to having the drive-by ceremony, Culbreath was given several gifts from grateful students, parents and faculty, including a wooden chest in which to place her memories, as well as a framed painting of the new Austin Elementary School, which, sadly, she only spent two months in before COVID shut down in-person instruction. The ceremonies also included the unveiling of a street sign in front of the school that bears Culbreath’s name. All were, according to those in attendance, small tokens of their appreciation of her dedication to the school and its students.

“Dr. Culbreath has been such an amazing asset to Austin Elementary and she will be greatly missed,” said Lisa Victory, a para-professional at the school whose three children attended Austin starting in 2000. “She was such a strong leader for the staff and a staunch advocate for all of the students. She gave her all to Austin Elementary, and we benefited greatly from her tenacity and dedication.”

Culbreath said she was proud of the many accomplishments that Austin achieved over the years, including its consistent top ranking as one of Georgia’s best schools, as well as its certification as a STEM-certified institution. But she credited the parents, teachers and community supporters as the key to all the successes that were achieved while she was the principal.

“There’s only so much a leader can do without the support of others,” she said. “While I am so proud that we have remained in the 1 percent of the top schools in Georgia, I know that it is only because of the community that we had around us.”

Culbreath said she was also honored to share her retirement date with long-time former principal Linda Frazer, who was Austin’s leader while she was assistant principal. Both served for nine years, and retired, Frazer from the district office, on the same day.

“We remained friends throughout all these years, and it was an honor to share my retirement date with her,” Culbreath said. “Both of us served as principals at Austin for nine years, so it was fitting that we [left] together.”

Retirement will be a new world for Culbreath, who has spent decades planning “for the next thing.”

“My husband is laughing at me because I’ve only been retired for one day and I’m already lining things up,” she said. “But I am planning to take the next couple of months to concentrate on my health and to visit with my parents in Florida. Then we will see what the next steps are.”

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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