Beloved PTHS secretary is refiring, not retiring

Posted 6/19/21

The crisp ring of toasting glasses was barely audible over the sounds of stories and uproars of laughter.

Amidst lavender decor, against a violet sky heavy will approaching rain, guests with …

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Beloved PTHS secretary is refiring, not retiring

Jan Boutilier takes selfies with those who came to celebrate her retirement at Vintage by Port Townsend Vineyards.
Jan Boutilier takes selfies with those who came to celebrate her retirement at Vintage by Port Townsend Vineyards.
Leader photo by Alli Patton

The crisp ring of toasting glasses was barely audible over the sounds of stories and uproars of laughter.

Amidst lavender decor, against a violet sky heavy will approaching rain, guests with wine-colored smiles were dressed in every shade of purple – from lilac to indigo – in honor of the woman of the hour, Jan Boutilier.

She waltzed through a maze of seated guests to swap tales and share hugs with everyone. Looking like royalty, she was draped in a glittered sash that read, “Retired and Fabulous.”

It should have instead read “Refired and Fabulous.”

Boutilier has never liked the word “retire,” preferring “refire” in its place. She is refiring her interests, sparking new passions and giving life to old ones. She has no plans to just sit around after leaving her 27-year post as principal’s secretary at Port Townsend High School and 35-year career with the Port Townsend School District.

A graduate of Port Townsend High School herself, Boutilier began her career with the school district in the spring of 1986. She was hired for the special education preschool after having volunteered there for four years.

“I was so thrilled,” she said. “That was like one of the happiest days of my life.”

The fall of that year, she was moved to the Grant Street School. After a year there, she was transferred to the intermediate school.

Boutilier was then transferred to her alma mater, Port Townsend High School.

“At first, I said I didn’t want to go because the kids were big and they swear all the time.”

That apprehension evaporated.

“But once I got there, I was one of the paraeducators to start with and it was the most wonderful experience ever.”

Time passed at PTHS and she went on to the secretarial pool, becoming counseling secretary and working with in-school suspension before that. Over the years, she has worn a variety of hats in the high school, from running the Student of the Month program to advising various clubs, like Key Club.

“Then the principal’s secretary came open and I applied for that,” she said. “That was in the fall of ’94 and that’s the beginning of a long and happy career.”

She has worked under the current Principal Carrie Ehrhardt for the past 20 years.

“Carrie’s been such a blessing,” Boutilier said.

“She treats us as her team. We’re not her employees. We’re her team, which makes all the difference in the world. You want to do more for people who believe in you and trust in you.”

“It was one of the hardest days of my life when I had to go in in January and tell her I was going to be leaving,” Boutilier added.

When asked about her exiting secretary, Ehrhardt had nothing but kind words, saying she’s been spoiled by Boutilier for the past two decades.

“She is so skilled at her job that she has the ability to know what I need, often before I realize that I need it,” Ehrhardt wrote in an email to The Leader.

“In addition to all that she has done to help staff, students, and parents, Jan runs our Key Club, which is the student group associated with the Kiwanis.  She has been instrumental in helping out at events, including football games, where you always see her at the gate, passing out programs and welcoming families, community, and fans with a smile,” the principal continued.

“Jan is also a PTHS Alumni, so she has worked to make sure that the high school stays well connected with the alumni association. During times of transition within our school, Jan has utilized her understanding of the past, and the needs of the present, so that our school’s culture and history is respected, while allowing us to move forward with the support of our community and alumni. This has been invaluable to us, and our high school, over the years.”

Ehrhardt described her coworker and friend as “a treasured member of the high school staff, and will be dearly missed by us all, but especially me!”

Boutilier’s job of principal’s secretary has entailed “running the graduation program, organizing everything, making sure you don’t make a mistake and if you do it’s on you,” she explained with a laugh.

The role carries with it a lot of pressure and a lot of stress.

“But it’s so much fun to get to know the kids,” Boutilier added.

In taking care of all things graduation, she has gotten to know the senior classes well over the years.

“I’ve worked a lot with them, making sure they order their stuff, keeping them on task for what they need to complete.”

She just finished working on her 27th and final graduation. As of last Friday, she is leaving PTHS with the Class of 2021.

What she’ll miss most is just being there, she said.

“My heart is in the school. I love the school.”

“I love the brick buildings,” Boutilier continued. “I love our staff. We have a fabulous staff. I love the kids. Just the daily interactions with people and talking to smart people all day long.”

In her last year she has seen much change, however.

“It’s been a difficult year because we haven’t been able to gather with the kids the way we used to,” she said of her school life amid the pandemic.

As Key Club advisor, her meetings had to be on Zoom. She described the club’s difficult task of trying to find ways to serve the community in the meantime. No office parties, no birthday celebrations, and no work gathering could take place because of strict protocols.

“So that has been really hard without having a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s been a lot of work as we pivot.”

Boutilier said she wished she could work through one more year “to kind of get back to a normal ending.”

Excited about her work each and every day, there is no doubt that she has loved her school.

“I’m one of the few people who love Mondays and I love going to work,” she said.

It will be a big adjustment not to get up every morning and do what she loves, Boutilier added.

“But I know by refiring I’m going to find new interests and continue on with my old interests.”

Boutilier has plans for volunteering in the near future. Her days will be filled, spending time with her 8-year-old yellow lab, Cappy, along with a new addition.

“I love [Cappy] so much that I put a deposit on one of her great nieces at the beginning of 2020.”

The litter was born in May 2021 and the pup’s pick-up date, at eight weeks, is the day after Boutilier’s last day of school in July.

She will have her hands full with a new puppy, but that won’t stop her from diving into her passions.

“Photography is another thing I love,” Boutilier said, adding that she is currently looking at new cameras.

She may be leaving PTHS, but PTHS will never leave her. Boutilier will carry with her fond memories of chaperoning some of the Visit History trips — traveling and touring Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Austria with her pods of students. She will never forget the Senior Walkabout of 2001 in which she chaperoned 11 students via public transportation to Neskowin, Oregon.

She was also present for so many school dances and she never missed a prom.

When a student asked her for a few words to contribute to this year’s yearbook, she gifted students with this wisdom: “It’s never too late to be who you want to be. Sprinkle kindness like confetti — and watch goodness swarm! Be a believer of the good in people and show them you care. It can make the world of difference to someone.”

She signed off with “I am so grateful for the life-changing opportunity to work with students for the past 35 years as a school employee. It has greatly enriched my life and PTHS has my heart.”



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