By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County School System recognized 76 retiring educators with a banquet and appreciation ceremony on Tuesday at the Pristine Chapel in Jonesboro.
The retirees come from areas ranging from transportation, to various schools, to the district's central office.
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), Corrective Superintendent John Thompson and acting school board Chairperson Michelle Strong spoke to the honorees.
Strong, who is a teacher in the Fulton County system, expressed her gratitude to the retirees for the years they spent making students into "great pilots for the future."
"I know on the first day of school next year, you'll wake up, look at the alarm clock, think about us and then roll over and go back to sleep," she joked.
The employee whose retirement shocked some at the event was Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jackie Hubbert. Most people did not find out she was retiring until this week. She will remain with the school system until her contract ends in June.
Hubbert becomes the third high-level district employee to decide to leave the school system in the last month. Last month, former Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald accepted a similar position with the Fulton County School System, and legal counsel Dorsey Hopson was offered a contract to become the general counsel for the Memphis, Tenn., system.
The announcement of Hubbert's retirement also comes on the heels of reports that Corrective Superintendent John Thompson plans to make all high-level administrators re-apply for their jobs.
Hubbert, who has worked in education for 35 years, 28 of which have been in Clayton County, said her decision was purely based on a desire to move on to a new chapter in her life.
"I decided over spring break [in April]," she said. "I wasn't planning on retiring, but I was talking to officials from the Teacher's Retirement System and found out I had more years of service than I thought I had. So, I just said 'What the heck,' and decided to retire."
School System Spokesman Charles White said no decision has been made about who will run the human resources department. Hubbert said she will continue to have a presence in the district next year, but only at Jonesboro High School, because her daughter, Sarah, is a junior at the school. She also plans to do some consulting work in her retirement.
"We would like to congratulate Ms. Hubbert on her years of service to the district and the board wishes her well as she enters her new journey of retirement," Strong said. "She is a valuable employee that will be dearly missed."
Because her department organizes the ceremony every year, Hubbert gave a few remarks to her fellow retirees, and at times, had to choke back her emotions. "It's not easy to leave a place when you've been there for so long," she said. "You've earned this because of all the years of work you've put in to enrich the lives of our children. We will never be able to repay you for everything you've given us."
Glanton echoed those sentiments during his remarks, adding "It's not what position you served, but how you served and what impact you made on the life of a child ... For years to come, students will talk about what you taught them, and your fellow teachers will try to imitate you."
Beverly Garner, the retiring principal of Kendrick Middle School, who has worked in education for 34 years, said she hopes to help the school in some manner on a part-time basis, because, "I believe in this school system."
Charlsie Mitchell, a retiring pre-kindergarten teacher who has been an educator for 32 years and "loved every minute of it," said she and her husband, Michael, who retired a year and a half ago, plan to do some traveling. "I'm really going to miss the children and my fellow staff members," she said.