Charlotte Annino, 74, has been the administrative office manager at the Westlake Village parochial school since fall 1983, a year after it opened.
She informed school officials of her retirement last year but asked St. Jude principal Michele Schulte to keep the news quiet until it was closer to her final day, June 30.
“I’ll miss the children and all the people I work with,” Annino said. “People tell me how fortunate they were to have me, but I’ve been fortunate to have been able to be there with these families, with these teachers. I’m the fortunate one.”
Schulte and the rest of the school’s staff honored Annino’s career at St. Jude during the school’s 35th anniversary celebration Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Westlake.
Annino was presented with a quilt made from pieces of the school’s uniforms. Former students read a poem to her. Annino and her husband, George, were presented with a gift certificate for a cruise.
Schulte said the end-of-year celebration had about 300 attendees, the best turnout of any year. She credits that to Annino’s impending retirement and the impact she’s had on students through her 34 years at the school.
Annino, an Oak Park resident, said she “volunteered her way” into the job. Her daughter was a member of the school’s first second-grade class, so she offered to help out in the office, and when one secretary quit, Annino became a part-time employee. When another quit she took over full time, and she’s been the only office staff member since then.
“She does the bookkeeping; she’s our registrar; she handles all the students’ records,” Schulte said. “At the start of the school year she’s the one that helps us get all our records started, gets the children’s emergency cards. She’s the one that wraps up the school year with the teachers. Pretty much any piece of paper that the school needs to handle, she handles it.”
Schulte, St. Jude’s principal for seven years, jokes that because of her longevity, Annino is actually the boss.
“We don’t call her Mrs. Annino; we call her Miss Charlotte. She’s been here long enough we have teachers with us who were students here with her,” Schulte said. “When she announced she was retiring, people kept asking how I was going to replace her. She’s basically our lived history of the school. I don’t think people stay in jobs that long anymore.”
Annino said there are only two parts of the job she won’t miss— meetings and having to stay after school. She’s looking forward to her retirement and hopes to travel and spend more time with her family.
She said she’s not sure how the transition to retirement will go but expects the cruise will help smooth the change.
“We can decide where we want to go or what we want to do. We’re just going to take one day at a time,” she said. “I want to drive around, go from here to Seattle and maybe drive across the United States, whatever we feel like doing. Hopefully we have the health to do it.”
Schulte said Annino’s replacement has been training for a year, and while the principal is confident Annino’s absence won’t affect operations at the school, she will be missed.
“We have some stable faculty members, but no one’s going to quite do what she’s done,” Schulte said. “I think it’s our challenge to keep her spirit alive, and by that I mean the graciousness with which she did her job. Doing a job that sometimes isn’t always something you thank people for but is necessary. She still has a month to go with us, and she’ll do her job to its full extent until the day she leaves. That’s just who she is.”