Sayers re-acclimates to Bearden traditions, this time as principal, not parent


Olivia Hailey

Mrs. Debbie Sayers speaks to Bearden’s SGA after school one day.

Olivia Hailey, News Writer

When new freshmen enter the halls of Bearden for the first time, they may become slightly confused as upperclassmen, and even a few teachers, continue the urban legend of the “swimming pool” that is rumored to be somewhere on campus.

As a 2010 Bearden alum, Leslie Sayers is in on the joke, but her mom – newly appointed principal Mrs. Debbie Sayers – wasn’t.

Mrs. Sayers was perplexed when people began emailing her and asking if she knew about “the pool” upon receiving the new job.

Of course, there is no pool in the school, which became clear to Mrs. Sayers during a tour with football coach Morgan Shinlever.

Campus covered. No pool.

I texted [Leslie] yesterday and I said, ‘Hey, I saw the pool today at Bearden,’ and then she came back with laughing emojis,” Mrs. Sayers said. “I never would have known that before.”

After Mr. Jason Myers was promoted to Executive Director of Student Supports for Knox County Schools, Mrs. Sayers took over as head principal of Bearden. Although she comes with experience from other high schools, she has a special connection to Bearden through her daughter Leslie, who is now a teacher at Belle Morris Elementary School.

Since she has been on staff at Bearden, Mrs. Sayers has reflected on the difference between her experience here as a parent versus what she’s coming to know Bearden as now. 

“You have one perspective when you’re the parent of a student, and you can’t really know what a school’s like or get a feel for the school until you’re actually in it,” Mrs. Sayers said. “So it’s been really cool to be here … as an employee to just see what it’s like on the inside.

“I can see why [Leslie] loved it so much.”

Mrs. Sayers began her education career as a science teacher at a school in Michigan and later taught at West High School and Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville. Her next position was as curriculum principal at Farragut, but she came to Bearden after serving as a grade-level principal at Central. 

“I have been so amazed with the students that will just come up to me and introduce themselves and then start talking to me,” Mrs. Sayers said. “That’s what’s been most noticeable here is that kids will engage me in conversation.”

Although she’s a new principal replacing another new principal, she plans on upholding Bearden traditions to the best of her abilities. She does know of a few from when her daughter was a student here, but regarding what Bearden is like now, she has learned a lot from current students and teachers. 

“I’m really just asking [the staff] what they think are the most important traditions to uphold,” Mrs. Sayers said. “There was a day a bunch of students took me on a tour of campus, and I asked them that.” 

Concerning traditions at Bearden athletic events, especially football, Mrs. Sayers is not planning on changing things, but wants to make sure everything is done in a respectful and appropriate manner. 

“As long as we stay within the parameters, and we make good choices, we show good sportsmanship, and we’re not inappropriate, I’m fine,” Mrs. Sayers said. “It’s just when we do the other, then we kind of ruin it for everybody else because I do not want people to think bad things of our students.”

Outside of Bearden, Mrs. Sayers loves sports. Athletic since high school, having been a part of basketball, volleyball, track, and cross country teams, she eventually got into triathlons after a recommendation from her brother to try it again; she tried it right after college with hardly any training and was not a fan, but now, fully-trained, she loves participating in them. 

“I don’t have a lot of other time to do stuff… but really, honestly and truly, sports are my hobby, like I’m not into decorating,” Mrs. Sayers said. “I’m not into most of the kind of stuff that you would think an older female would be into.” 

Other than athletics, Mrs. Sayers enjoys anything outdoors with her silver labrador retriever named Ellie. 

“If there’s anything I can do outside, I’m going to do that over anything else,” Mrs. Sayers said. 

She’s excited to fill this role as principal, bringing with her lessons from her classroom while embracing this change as a chance to learn. 

“It’s a chance to learn to do something new because I like challenge,” she said. “I think we should all like to do things that are hard because that helps us grow. I see it as a growth opportunity for me… I’m just excited to get to know the school, the community. 

“Right now, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.”