06/15/07 — 64 WCPS employees saying goodbye this year

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64 WCPS employees saying goodbye this year

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 15, 2007 1:45 PM

Cathy Coker Rhodes has taught so long that some of her students these days are the grandchildren of the first kindergarten students she had nearly 30 years ago.

Recalling one student clinging to his mother's leg at the start of school, she said it was fun to later encounter that child as a parent in a similar situation and get to say, "Remember how you acted?"

On Wednesday, she joined 64 other personnel from Wayne County Public Schools at a retirement luncheon in their honor at H.V. Brown Hall. There was a slight lilt in her step as she accepted a plaque from school officials.

She enjoyed her time in education, she said, but is now looking forward to the next chapter -- going to work part-time with ReNu Life, a program for brain injury patients.

"I'm so thankful that I had the experience of working with Wayne County Public Schools... the school system has been a big part of my life -- all the people I have met through the children, the parents and the people I work with," she said, before noting that she is now "looking forward to enjoying Sundays, not having to worry about going to work on Monday."

Ricky Carter, assistant director of the schools' transportation department, also retires after 30 years in education. He said he had mixed emotions about retirement.

"I'm excited but I'm sorry to leave my friends," he said.

With 32 years in education, Dr. Marlee Ray, exceptional children's director, has spent the last 12 in Wayne County. One year after obtaining her doctorate degree, she is retiring from the school system, undecided about her next career move.

"It's wonderful to be able to leave a job that you still love and enjoy every day and yet know that there are other opportunities and challenges ahead to look forward to as well," she said.

During the luncheon, a slide show continuously ran in the background, featuring pictures of the retiring teachers, principals and others in action. Some evoked laughter, others the realization that familiar faces would no longer be around come the fall.

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, thanked the retirees for their dedicated service, encouraging them to return to work or as volunteers.

"Don't think that you're going to be too far from us, that we can't find you," he said, joking that just as the Army keeps a recall list, so could the school system.

"All positions are unique, all responsibilities are unique. It takes all of you working together to make this work," he said. "You have done a quality job helping us. ... We appreciate your influence and your impact on the lives of children."

Board of Education Chairwoman Shirley Sims called upon one of the retirees to close the ceremonies in song. Joseph Bailey Sr., shop foreman in the bus garage for 29 years, said the only genre he sings is southern gospel.

"I've been 32 years in the Army of the Lord," he said. "I plan to do it more."

He sang "Amazing Grace" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun."