May 11, 2017
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Rutherford County Schools’ annual retirement reception brought about a few tears.
In fact, Amy Wise, who is retiring after 38 years with the district, was already teary-eyed Tuesday morning while addressing the range of emotions that came with the decision to retire.
Wise has been at the Central Office for the past 21 years, of which the past 17 have been as the Title I Coordinator, following 17 years in the classroom at Rockvale, David Youree and Smyrna West.
Student enrollment has more than tripled since Wise first joined the Rutherford County district.
But for Wise and 49 other retirees —who gathered at the Embassy Suites on Tuesday afternoon for a reception in their honor — they were tears of joy that gave way to laughter.
Lots of laughter.
The 2017 reception was a culmination of memories made over a lifetime spent in education.
“What you do for these students and with these students every day,” said Director of Schools Don Odom, who addressed all the attendees before calling forward each of the retirees one at a time, “impacts these students.”
Odom commended everyone, from custodial and culinary specialists to teachers and aides to administrators and support staff, for putting the welfare of others above their own.
In all, 102 of the more than 5,000 district employees are retiring this year. The 50 retirees who elected to participate in the reception — such as Theresa Hill, who has taught for 40 years at Eagleville School — have accumulated 1,190 years of service to Rutherford County.
Odom recognized not just their time in the classroom but all the extra hours and the personal money spent on classroom supplies.
“There’s a lot of talent (in this room),” Odom said, “a lot of wisdom and experience and you deserve all the gratitude you receive.”
As with each year’s class of retirees, everyone being honored spent their careers preparing students today for tomorrow’s opportunities.
The difficulties and challenges they faced did not go unnoticed.
And Odom also talked about the stakes and expectations being higher than ever before.
As an example, Wise began her role with the Title I program when congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act. They later reauthorized it as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
“I got to know the law from the ground up,” Wise explained, “so I felt very informed all through the years. Well, we’re starting a new law July 1 with (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and someone else needs to have that same opportunity.”
The coincidental timing could not have worked out better for Wise’s successor.
Though it didn’t make the decision any easier for Wise.
Earlier in her career, she always planned on retiring once she reached 30 years of service. However, she was merely 51 when she reached the milestone and “wasn’t ready.”
“You know when you’re ready,” said Wise, who professed her love of Title I and devoted her career to offering children the best education. “You know when it’s time.
Like Wise, Jackie Drake said it was time.
Drake has been with the district for 32 years and is currently an administrative assistant in the Instruction Department. Richard Zago, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, has referred to Drake as irreplaceable.
“I keep telling him it will be OK,” Drake joked, “and he keeps looking at me saying, ‘Are you sure?’”
Drake said it feels good to be appreciated, but said, “I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter.”
Like many of her fellow retirees, Drake plans to spend more time with family. Wise said she plans to “learn how to relax and be carefree.”
Odom drew laughs as Debbie Seigfried, who spent 32 years with the district, made her way to the front of the room when he mentioned she had joked about writing “a tell-all-book about education.”
“Whatever you do,” Odom concluded, "I hope you find time to enjoy life.”
Jo E. Allen
Verna Jean Andrews
Susan T. Brian
Mary T. Davis
Rebecca P. Deaton
Elizabeth A. Dorsey
Jackie L. Drake
Jeffrey R. Duke
Emilie M. Dyer
Linda Gayle Hancock
Sandra Alycia Harkless
Elowin Gluch Harper
Charles B. Howard
Sarah E. Jessie
Pamela E. LaRue
Donnie F. Mangrum
Nancy Carol McCauley
Stephen Lemont McClain
James Timothy (Tim) McElroy
Delphia Marie McHenry
Brenda J. Mercer
Deborah Ann Molloy
Mary Lark Petty
Tanna Jo Phillips
Bessie E. Reed
Deborah Moore Richards
Lucile Bradford Roberts
Bianca Ann Shelton
Sherry Mai Shinn
Pam McCash Snell
James Rex Thigpen
Bettye D. Thompson
Martha Jernigan Tucker
Johnny Lyn Vallas
Mary Beth Walkup
Kathy A. West