Phs Secretary Unflappable After 22 Years On Job

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Among the challenges Grace Popelier has taken on in her 22 years as a principal's secretary is fielding a Thanksgiving call about how to cook a turkey.

"I was at Julia Randall (Elementary) and I took a phone call from a parent who wanted to know how to cook their turkey," she said. "I was flabbergasted but I just went through the steps on how to clean, defrost the bird and get it in the oven."

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Payson High School assistant principals Dave Bradley, left, and Tim Fruth, right, credit principal's secretary Grace Popelier for keeping the school running smoothly. Popelier has been employed by the district for 22 years.

While that request might be the most unusual challenge she's faced, there's been plenty of other skill tests she's had to meet over the years.

As current secretary to Payson High School principal Roy Sandoval -- and before him Phil Gille and Sue Myers -- Popelier's most daunting task is scouring the campus to find fill-in teachers to cover classes for coaches and sponsors who will be missing part of the school day due to games and other extracurricular activities.

"Sometimes it's tough to find enough (substitutes) to do it," she said.

Other job responsibilities include maintaining student files, ordering supplies, monitoring sign-in/sign-out sheets, setting appointments, copying materials and answering phones and taking messages.

Her job requires a person with strong organizational, communication, computation and computer skills.

"She has all those and more," Sandoval said.

As demanding as Popelier's job is, it is the way she handles the day-to-day pressure that impresses her co-workers.

"She is as strong as a rock," Sandoval said last week. "Look at today, it's the day before spring break, everyone is stressed, and she's the one keeping everything together."

Assistant principal Tim Fruth agrees, "She just doesn't waver, she's the one we all go to when we desperately need something."

Popelier's fellow secretary, Paty Henderson admires Popelier for her steady demeanor.

"Her ability to be calm in all that happens is amazing," she said.

Hearing the praise, Popelier shrugs her shoulders modestly saying only that her unflappable character must be the result of so many years on the job.

After spending her first three years as principal's secretary at Julia Randall, she moved to Payson Junior High -- now Rim Country Middle School -- where she worked for seven years.

In 1994, Gille talked Popelier into moving to Payson High.

"I enjoyed all the schools I've been to, but coming here was probably a good move for me," Popelier said.

Most of her years at PHS, she's worked alongside teachers more than the students.

But this year, with construction occurring on old main building and all three administrators and their secretaries packed into one small office building, Popelier meets more students.

"Now, (the students) have to come into this building more than they did (before construction). So, I've been able to put names with faces," she said. "I like working with the kids, too."

Among those students who have passed through Payson schools during Popelier's long tenure have been her two sons, Jeremiah and Adam.

However, having mom on campus wasn't always a plus for the two boys.

"Adam was always sure I was following him and I'm not sure Jeremiah liked having me around school as much as I was," she said. "Most boys don't have their mom at school."

Both Jeremiah and Adam graduated from PHS and now are enjoying successful careers in the Valley-area.

Jeremiah is a human resource officer for Safeway stores and Adam, who spent a tour of duty in the Navy, is a police officer.

"We are very proud of both of them," Popelier said.

With PHS classes about to resume -- following a two-week spring break in which Popelier spent free time enjoying her grandchildren -- she is set to resume the steady, composed and challenging course she's followed since becoming a principal's secretary.

"It's my job, it's what I do best," she said.

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