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Mixed emotions as retirees approach ‘Last, Last Day’

April 26, 2018

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Jon Dinkins is on the cusp of his last month as the principal at Wilson Elementary.

And with that brings a host of lasts.

His 40th year with Rutherford County Schools is the last of 17 as principal. He recently led his last parade during the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics.

His last faculty meeting is forthcoming, so too are his last fifth-grade graduation and, of course, his last, last day of school.

“All those lasts add up to some tears,” said Dinkins, who admitted to being emotional when he thinks about seeing the last student walking out the doors. “Personally, I think it’s going to be tough. I think I’ll be tough on me. I get emotional just thinking about it.”

He added, “Everything is the last now.”

Dinkins, who is at Wilson Elementary, is one of four principals retiring at the end of the current school year along with Will Shelton, Mary Jo Yeager and Rick Powell.

Shelton is at Blackman Middle, while Yeager is at Daniel-McKee Alternative and Powell is at Smyrna High.

Dinkins and Shelton will be among 43 of the district’s retirees who have chosen to be recognized at a banquet honoring their accomplishments and years of service.

Director of Schools Don Odom, who is retiring after a 50-year career with Rutherford County Schools, will preside over the annual Retirement Reception that will be held May 8 beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro.

Shelton agreed about the mixed emotions of his pending retirement.

He’s been with the district for 31 years and said, “Yes, there are a lot of lasts. Some of them are enjoyable lasts and some of them are regrettable. You have to get through them to get to the next chapter.”

Dinkins said whenever he feels like he’s getting too emotional, he also refocuses his thoughts on what is coming next.

“When I get that way, I try to think it’s not the end,” he explained, “it’s the beginning of something new.”

Or rather a continuation.

Dinkins plans to spend more time on the air for WGNS, where he has provided play-by-play and commentary for local middle and high school athletics for the past 20 years.

“What’s great for me,” Dinkins said, “is it keeps me involved with schools.”

Though he won’t be in schools or classrooms any more, Dinkins will see some of his current students grow up as student-athletes playing everything from football and basketball to baseball and softball.

A group of high school softball players recently saw him broadcasting their game. Afterward, they approached him during a commercial and “said hi to me,” recalled Dinkins. “It’s a great feeling and it keeps you involved.”

Dinkins said “it’s weird” talking about retirement.

Shelton also feels “a little bit weird,” but for an entirely different reason. He won’t be at Blackman on the last day of the school year. His son is graduating from medical school that day, so he’ll be in Memphis.

“I won’t have a last, last day,” Shelton said. “But, of course, my last day is June 15, so in that respect, I do have a last, last day.”

Dinkins concluded, “It’s going to be a tough last few weeks.”

The following is an alphabetical list of retirees who have agreed to be acknowledged at the upcoming banquet:

  • Gilbert Aldridge, teacher, LaVergne High
  • Pamela J. Barnett, admin. asst., Central Office
  • Reta K. Barney, teacher, Smyrna Primary
  • Connie J. Barrett, field trainer manager, Central Office
  • Janita Jones Baucum, teacher, Whitworth Buchanan Middle
  • Laurie Cantrell, teacher, David Youree Elementary
  • Antonia U. Curtis, school psychologist, Central Office
  • Jon Dinkins, principal, Wilson Elementary
  • Joyce F. Eady, Title I ATLAS liaison, Central Office
  • Mary Kathleen Fischer, teacher, Lascassas Elementary
  • Lisa Fox, teacher, Brown’s Chapel Elementary
  • Jo Ann Graves, school counselor, Barfield Elementary
  • LaVerne Green Grigsby, teacher, Stewartsboro Elementary
  • Patsy Harris, teacher, Cedar Grove Elementary
  • Pat Hudgens, assistant principal, Blackman Middle
  • Regina W. Hunsicker, teacher, Stewarts Creek Middle
  • Deborah Hunt, teacher, Rock Springs Middle
  • Debby James, teacher, Siegel High
  • Lillie Large, teacher, McFadden School of Excellence
  • Laura Martin, teacher, Siegel High
  • Renee’ Martin, assistant principal, Siegel High
  • Sandi McDaniel, food service manager, Whitworth Buchanan Middle
  • Lydia Oliver, teacher, David Youree Elementary
  • Jean Paul, custodian, Stewarts Creek Elementary
  • Charline J. Phillips, media specialist, Siegel High
  • Kim Chavez Reaux, teacher, John Colemon Elementary
  • Marjorie Richer, custodian, Blackman High School
  • Patsy Rideout, teacher, Barfield Elementary
  • Martha Ross, custodian, Oakland High
  • Will Shelton, principal, Blackman Middle
  • Diane C. Smith, teacher, Stewartsboro Elementary
  • Mike Snell, transportation supervisor, Central Office
  • Nancy South, teacher, Kittrell Elementary
  • Judith Thompson, teacher, Rock Springs Middle
  • Cynthia A. Todd, educational assistant, Roy Waldron Elementary
  • Ann Trout, school psychologist, Central Office
  • Edie Urness-Pondillo, teacher, Riverdale High
  • Jewell Veals, educational assistant, Kittrell Elementary
  • Gale T. Wood, school nutrition supervisor, Central Office
  • Marilyn Woodruff, teacher, Cedar Grove Elementary
  • Suzanne McDaniel Zaccaro, teacher, Buchanan Elementary
  • Barbara C. Zawislak, teacher, Siegel High
  • Mary Ellen Zimmerman, teacher, Blackman Middle