Students, employees celebrate new beginnings
This time of year, the focus is on the thousands of Douglas County students who are getting a fresh new start following their commencement ceremonies. Simultaneously, our schools and administration are celebrating the contributions of staff who are, themselves, embarking on a new journey—retirement.
“It has been bittersweet, but it has been a great adventure,” said Susie Meredith, the attendance secretary at Mountain Vista High School. Over her 37 years in the Douglas County School District (DCSD), she has served at six schools, the central office and under all four superintendents.
“I loved the little ones, and then as I went into the middle schools, I thought this is where I loved to be, which was true. However, as I finally started working in high school environment, I found my 'home.' High school was where I was meant to be. It was a genuine pleasure and privilege to serve in all of these schools," Meredith said.
It all started when she was volunteering in her son’s second grade class and was asked if she would be willing to be a teacher’s aide. She never thought four decades later, she would still be in the schools.
“Never, ever. No. I never dreamed I would work that long,” Meredith said. “I’ve loved every minute of it. I really have. I treasure all the moments. I do.”
Now, as an attendance secretary, she says she gets the most humorous calls, including of course, students who are trying to pass themselves off as their parents to get excused from class.
Thinking back she remembers the ditto machines that would turn her hands, clothes and even face purple. And when she started in 1977, there wasn’t a single school in Highlands Ranch.
“At the time we lived in Acres Green and there wasn’t a school, the first year we moved here. We had to go down to Castle Rock,” she reminisced.
“Back then, the superintendent was able to go around and visit all the schools and know everyone,” Meredith recalled. “He knew your family and everything about you. That was what was special at Douglas County, at the time. With the growth, it can’t be like that anymore.”
Another of this year’s retirees, Jon Pease of Legend High School also reflected on the District’s amazing growth.
“We went through such a massive growth spurt for a good part of my career,” Pease explained. “Highlands Ranch to Legend was kind of a blur with all of the buildings being added.”
During his 30-year career, he had the privilege to open several schools, including Coyote Creek, Highlands Ranch High School and finally Legend High School, where he is the building engineer. He also managed building operations at Chaparral High School for several years.
The 52-year-old says is truly is a commencement for Pease, much like the students that he works with. He isn’t sure what he’ll do moving forward, but it will be the beginning of something new.
“I joke with [Principal] Corey [Wise] and say, ‘you should get me a cap and gown,’ so I can walk with the seniors,” Jon Pease said with a chuckle. “My joke is that I finally get to graduate from high school this year.”
He never finished his high school career, so it seems fitting that he’ll be finishing this phase of his life with a high school graduation.
“I always joke around that God has a wonderful sense of humor, because my junior and senior year of high school I ditched a lot, so where do I end up working other than a high school?”
His time within DCSD’s high schools, however, has given him a valuable opportunity to share his experience with students who might be considering quitting high school.
“I’ve been able to have conversations with kids and have told them, ‘I know you don’t think that school is what is right for you right now, but take it from someone who has been there and has walked down that path, you want to go ahead and finish and get it over with, because it will follow you the rest of your life. You will have a harder road to go if you choose to walk away from school without finishing,” Pease said. “Even if you never do anything with it, you never have to put on an application that you are not a high school graduate.”
He is excited to be training his replacement, a seasoned engineer who will no doubt make this transition easier.
“If I was less comfortable with the person coming in, I might be that person calling in, saying, ‘ok, did you make sure you got the locker combinations changed’ or ‘did you make sure all the floors got done and the contractors did what they were supposed to do,” Pease said with a laugh. “Having someone you trust replace you goes a long way towards alleviating those fears.”
“You can just look back and enjoy it,” Pease added.
In May, DCSD held a retirement reception at the PACE Center in Parker to celebrate our retirees. The Douglas County School District would like to thank all of our retirees for their service to the District and our students.