BCSD retirees honored for 'lifetime of devotion' to students
Published Friday, May 25, 2018
The excited group of retirees at this table put in more than 100 years of work in Berkeley County School District. (BCSD photo) MORE PHOTOS
“If you feel like giving me a lifetime of devotion, I second that emotion.”
As the music of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, other Motown greats and hits from the 60s and 70s pumped through the sound system in the Berkeley Middle School cafeteria, those dining, laughing and reminiscing on the lifetime they spent working with Berkeley County School District pondered what their legacy would be.
Combined, those in attendance at Thursday’s BCSD retirement celebration had a total of 7,312 years of experience. It was a room full of passionate people who in some cases worked 40 or more years for the children in the schools. For some, while they anxiously await mornings without an alarm clock, they admit there will be a hole in their hearts once filled by daily interactions with the children of Berkeley County.
As names of deserving retirees were read for recognition, BCSD bus driver Viola Wright could be seen nodding with approval, smiling and occasionally clapping. She drove a bus serving students with special needs for 30 years. She came to the school district after a handful of other jobs and fell in love with the children.
“I like driving, and I like my kids,” she said.
Mrs. Wright worked with Berkeley County School District long enough to hear word of many ups and downs, but to her it was all background noise as the focus was always on her children. She made her job a priority, the safety of the kids a priority, and she didn’t dwell on what she couldn’t control.
“I just focused on what I needed to do to make sure I was doing things right,” she said. “…I’m going to miss my kids.”
From the other end of the cafeteria Westview Primary School Principal Luci Carter could be seen making her way to a round table occupied by family members and other retirees. What made her path to the table noticeable was the memorable exchange she had with several who greeted her with handshakes, hugs and other pleasantries. It was what you would expect for a woman who devoted a majority of her life to children in Berkeley County schools.
Forty-one years is a long time, and as events in life have let her know it’s the right time to exit her profession, she looks forward to not having to deal with school parking lot issues. She described the parking lot as “crazy in the mornings” with people parking where they shouldn’t and sometimes not aware of safety concerns of children in the area.
What fed Mrs. Carter’s desire to protect those children contributed to her passion. While she worked in roles in the central office and at other schools, 16 years were spent at Westview Primary. As a principal and teacher, she had a direct impact on many children and the children of those students. While she clings to many moments, she said there is definitely one that has been the most memorable.
Mrs. Carter was the type of kindergarten teacher that believed every child needed a hug, but for an entire year, Curtis Moore would only provide a handshake. She said something changed when he became a 4th-grader.
“He was in a room across the hall from me. He came by every afternoon for a hug before he left for home. That kinda makes it,” she said.
As district administrators and stakeholders coordinate hiring efforts for her school’s next great leader, she offers advice. "Keep an open door, choose your battles and don’t let the small things take you over the edge,” she said. “Trust the teachers that you hire. …Let ‘em teach.”
Mrs. Carter hopes the children, parents and teachers of Westview Primary School always remember how much she loved what she did and that she always put faith and family first.
For 21 years students and teachers at Goose Creek High School were blessed with the presence of Mrs. Donna Alley. As the school’s guidance counselor she did what she could to help every student. She also was “pretty good” at administering standardized testing.
While she will miss the daily interaction with students, she laughs as she says there will be no love lost for those tests.
“Coordinating testing, making sure all those little booklets were saved, coordinating all that… It was never too much fun,” Mrs. Carter said. “I got pretty good at it over the years, but I never really enjoyed it that much.”
She hopes coworkers will know and remember she always did everything she could to support them. She hopes the students she crossed paths with over the course of her 32-year career with BCSD remember she was always welcoming and willing to help.
“There was never a dull moment. There was always a surprise. They made me laugh, and they made me cry,” she said.
As some of BCSD’s most loyal employees shook the hands of administrators for the last time, many admitted it was bittersweet. In most cases it wasn’t about the job. It wasn’t a career. It was a calling, and it was a service to children.
“You can’t do enough for these people,” BCSD Director of Transportation Wes Fleming said with pride, as he reflected on the dedication to that calling of his own employees.
The lights were on, but they weren’t needed as cell phone screens and camera flashes painted excitement from wall to wall. It was an excitement shared by those in leadership positions attending the event – principals from several schools, district administrators who put life on hold to honor the most senior employees.
“We are very excited or them, for their new adventures in life,” BCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Whitley said. “I hope that they feel appreciated and valued and that they understand the legacy that they’re leaving behind.”
Altman, Deborah Lynne
Boyd, Debra Regina
Causey, Virginia Gail
Ford, Edith Runette
Gardner, Joan Carol
Lee, Shirley Ann
Lee, Sue Ann
Milligan, Linda Mae
Oliver, Sue Ellen
Richardson, Lula Bell
Whitley, Emily Karen