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There's 200 years worth of experience looking at you

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By Joshua Shepherd

At a special called meeting of the Harrison County School Board Tuesday night, the administration and board members paid tribute to 11 people retiring from service to the school system and the community.
Seven of those people were able to attend the annual ceremony.

It’s a pleasant ritual.
The principals and department leaders take the time to talk about the contributions each retiree has made on the school system throughout their career.
Each person is then awarded a quality Cracker Barrell rocking chair (which I coveted) and honored with special recognition as a Kentucky Colonel.
It’s a good reminder of the mark that every school employee makes on the school system. Education is one of those wonderful areas where everyone — absolutely everyone — involved has an opportunity to make an impact on students and co-workers.
That fact was clearly in evidence last night where teachers, maintenance personnel, and central office administrators were given equal time to be recognized and valued.
What an upbeat way to usher in the beginning of a new school year next week.
At the end of the presentation, Superintendent Andy Dotson made an observation that I found quite interesting.  
He said that those retiring represented over 200 years worth of experience to Harrison County Schools. If one were inclined to split hairs, the math behind such an assertion may be slightly questionable. But it made me leaf back through my notes and pay particular attention to the years that each person had given to their career.
There was Debbie Biddle who was retiring after 33 years of teaching computer technology.
High school principal Amy Coleman noted that Biddle once taught students how to work with computers with a bulky Commodore 64, saving data on a cassette tape.
(A note to those of us in our mid-40s and 50s: If you think its tough explaining to kids about the Commodore 64, try explaining a cassette tape to the download generation.)
None of the years of service credited to these people were small. There were quotes of 14 years, 28 years, and at least two people, Connie Reffett and Lloyd Ogden, were credited with over four decades of loyal service to Harrison County Schools.
Colleagues had fun with such numbers. My favorite was Dotson claiming to have found references to Ogden in the latter chapters of The Bible.
However, the decades of service that these people have logged in with Harrison County Schools is something I fear is becoming a rare commodity these days.
Maybe not so much in education, but it doesn’t seem so common anymore for large businesses and firms to reward or even value an employee’s loyalty and experience. In fact, it’s not an uncommon practice these days for a company to develop strategies designed with the specific intent of ushering their most experienced employees out the door in favor of younger, and most importantly, cheaper workforce.
Never mind about the value lost from the insight of those who have decades of experience to bring to the table. It is a sad story, and a sad comment on an organization’s values, that some view decades of loyal, committed service as nothing more than a drag on a company’s bottom line.
I wonder sometimes if this type of thinking has become too pervasive - particularly in our professional and economic culture.
I know full well that my perspective on this issue is grounded in the fact that I am middle-aged and don’t relish the idea of being seen as moot or obsolete.
But the ritual that Harrison County Schools performed last night was some reassurance to me, on a personal level, that at least some of our established insitutions recognize, and even celebrate, the value of experience as well as that of the new.
It’s something that I hope we never forget.