INDIAN SPRINGS — Every workday for the past 40 years, Dottie Frank has walked the 277 steps from her front door to the Indian Springs School across the street.
There have been plenty of changes over the decades in the tiny town near Creech Air Force Base. Students have come and gone and now have children of their own, while the military families from the former Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field that once filled the school with children are all gone.
But Frank — Ms. Frank or Ms. Dottie, as most students know her — has remained steadfast as a jack-of-all-trades who keeps the school running: She does the morning announcements, runs payroll, finds substitute teachers and even corrals the snakes, tarantulas and other creepy-crawlers that make their way onto campus.
“Everything runs through her,” Principal Brian Wiseman said. “Literally — everything runs through her.”
Last month, the school celebrated Frank’s 40th anniversary at the school, a milestone that she believes makes her the longest-serving clerical staffer in the Clark County School District.
‘It feels like … yesterday’
“It feels like it just happened yesterday,” Frank, secretary to the principal, said of her hiring in 1979 as a school aide. “I don’t feel that I’ve been here 40 years. When I think about the numbers, it’s kind of, ‘Wow, that’s more than half of my life!’ But I’ve always enjoyed what I do.”
Frank and her husband moved to the town 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the 1970s, when her husband, Phil, got a job at the Nevada Test Site.
Her two daughters and four grandchildren all graduated from the school, which now has roughly 260 students and serves pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on its campus.
Yet the Indian Springs school itself is a community, with at least three generations of alumni working there.
“It’s a good place to work,” Frank said. “It’s a good place to have people around you that you feel are family.”
That’s one reason why she has remained in the same place over the years. Going to work isn’t work for Frank, she said, because it’s always been fun.
That fun has come in different forms: It included the “donkey basketball” games that older students and staff used to enjoy from the back of trained donkeys.
It still includes a homecoming tradition in which Frank lights a rebar wrapped in flammable rags for the football team — the Thunderbirds — to carry as they run out on the field. No one, Wiseman insists, can do that other than Dottie.
And when Frank bemoaned the loss of a tree that was chopped down on the school’s front lawn years ago, staff planted another one on her 25th work anniversary. It now stands about 20 feet tall alongside a stone marker reading, “Dottie’s tree.”
Not in it for the money
The biggest thing keeping her on the job all these years may be Frank herself. Despite countless deficits, pay freezes and other difficulties with the district, Frank’s philosophy is to love her job.
“Don’t go into education for money,” she said. “You have to really love what you do. You have to really be interested in the education of children.”
Her cheery demeanor has even helped recruitment for the rural school.
“I’ve had people say, ‘You know, I get greeted so warmly by Ms. Dottie when I come here … so yeah, I want to work here,’ ” Wiseman said.
Frank, who is going on 71, doesn’t know when she might retire — although her husband regularly kids the principal that he needs to let her retire (“He and I fight all the time,” Wiseman jokes).
In the meantime, she’ll be at the school ensuring everything runs smoothly because, as she puts it, “the better the school runs, the better the children are educated.”