Rupert Howell column 10-30-12

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Retiring official leaves legacy of academic growth

The fact that South Panola School Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer announced his December 31 retirement to his staff and trustee board is unfortunate in that there will be those who always will equate it with the termination of a teacher the same day.

Evidence shows otherwise as Dr. Shaffer voluntarily produced documentation that clearly indicated he had been seeking a position with AdvancED since a state-wide opening was announced on July 10 of this year. He was offered the job Monday, October 22, according to documents provided.

Not that incidents involving the school district’s hundreds of employees and approximately 4,500 students were not a factor predicting his new job would have, “. . . much less stress.”

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AdvanceEd is the umbrella company associated with the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges an education accrediting organization. He called it a once-in-20-year opportunity.

Shaffer said Friday that the new job would allow him to receive his state retirement and his new salary resulting in a considerable income gain as well as a good benefits package while allowing him to live here in the Batesville area and work from his home.

Shaffer is seeking his state retirement after 29.5 years in education, with three years in the elected county school superintendent position in Coahoma County, his home county, and 10 years at South Panola—eight of those as superintendent.

Since Shaffer has been at the helm, the district has shown slow but steady academic growth as measured by QDI (an averaged score of state assessments) against ever-changing standards and goals; has added and expanded co-curricular programs; maintained, repaired and erected facilities and buildings without major tax increase while providing responsible fiscal management with a healthy fund balance.

Shaffer shares credit for fiscal responsibility with his financial director Suzanne Covington, and it should be noted that much of this was during the recent recession when state government was making serious cutbacks in educational funding statewide.

On a personal level, Shaffer’s initial years as superintendent led me to believe he was superhuman with his ability to handle details and to know not only his job, but those of others with whom he dealt.

That bubble burst when he fell in love, married the love of his life, Sarah Dale Ball, and they had their now 19-month-old son, Ryan.

Shaffer assured his board that he looks forward to being a South Panola school patron and parent.

He’s much more normal now.