By Carmen Ensinger
North Greene School Board honored long-time district secretary Barb Neece with a retirement party prior to the June 15 board meeting.
Neece will be retiring at the end of June after spending 45 years with her finger on the pulse of the district.
Neece said she graduated from North Greene High School and then went to college a couple of years before coming back and working for a local attorney, Keith Hubbard for a couple of years.
“At that time, he was the Greene County District Attorney and then he became a judge and when he became a judge, his law practice had to be closed and there went my job,” Neece said. “So, then an opening came up in the unit office and I’ve been here ever since.”
The one question that almost everyone asked her is how many superintendents she has worked under in her 45 years.
“I knew that was a question that was going to come up so I sat down and figured it out,” Neece said. “I had one of them three different times. Jim Whiteside was an interim and came back two different times. But in all, I have worked for 14 different superintendents.”
In her 45 years, she has seen a lot of change.
“When I first started, the Roodhouse Attendance Center was brand new and then we added on and built the new addition,” Neece said. “Actually, before that, we built the White Hall Elementary building, which is not the Unit Office. So, I have been through the demolition of a building and construction of a new building and then we did demolition of the old high school and construction of a new high school and those were kind of exciting things as far as positive and exciting progressive things that the district has done.”
But if one were to ask what Neece thinks her greatest achievement has been in her 45 years with the district, it has nothing to do with her work in the district office.
“I had the privilege of being asked by Dr. Cindy Rice to help with the high school musical many years ago and that was my chance to work behind the scenes with the students,” she said. “That was a real valuable time for me – being able to touch some of the students lives as our teaching staff gets to do on a daily basis and I will always value those times.”
All in all, Neece helped choreograph 15 high school musicals, spending long evenings helping the students learn the dance steps for weeks on end until the “big night.”
“We had kids who were athletes and scholars go out for the play and then there were kids who, for them, this was the only thing they did during their high school career,” Neece said. “There were kids who knew how to dance and those who had never danced in their life, but on opening night, it all seemed to come together and it was so rewarding to watch those kids grow from the first time I started working with them until they actually perform on that stage.”
When Neece began with the district in 1978, the computer was still in its infancy. In fact, North Greene did not even have a computer, or at least she didn’t have a computer. Neece recalls the first bit of “computerized” equipment she had.
“I was given a typewriter that had a little memory attachment to it and you could put a little three inch hard floppy disk in there,” Neece said. “You could save to that disk what you were creating on the typewriter and it saved it a line at a time. That was my first piece of technology.”
Technology has certainly changed over the last 45 years, but that isn’t to say that it has lessened the amount of paperwork, or for that matter, the work at all.
“If anything, technology has created more work for our office,” Neece said. “Especially more paperwork. There are more rules and regulations to follow now than we ever had in the past. For instance, the board policy manual we used to have was about an inch thick – now it is about four inches thick.”
Neece has spent the last several months training her replacement – Rhonda Lawson – an act that Neece admits has been bittersweet.
“I know that the work here will continue, even when I’m gone, but its hard when you have done something for 45 years to turn it over to someone else,” she said. “It is hard to know when to stop and I hate to leave things undone, but I think it is getting a bit easier now that the time is nearing. I wish Rhonda all the best and I’m sure she will do fine.”
So, what are her plans for retirement?
“I love to travel and we have two sons – one in Florida and one in South Carolina so hopefully we will get to visit them more frequently than maybe once a year,” Neece said. “I also love to be outside. Working indoors 12 months out of the year, I plan to be outdoors every chance I get.”
Looking back over the last 45 years, Neece was asked how she would rate her job.
“Well, the job has had its ups and downs like any job,” she said. “But obviously, I guess I have enjoyed my job because I’m still here after 45 years. It has been interesting and it has been an education – definitely an education. There have been some really sad times in the district but more good times that you want to remember. North Greene is my home and it will always be in my heart.”