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Platte R-3 commiserates, commemorates, regenerates

5/20/2004

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest coaches and teachers of all time, once said that “the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

At the Northland Career Center last Thursday evening, hard work succumbed to retirement for 11 cherished members of what has arguably become one of Missouri’s best school systems in Platte County R-3.

For on that day — only several days before the district’s senior class graduation ceremonies, as if to add more perspective to the occasion — Greg McPherson, John Hall, Ray Mahowski, Chris Eaton, Jay Cook, Rick Witt, Wayne Schumacher, Kathy Hatfield, Debbie Faudere, Jan Scott, Pam Miller and board member Lee Ann Fadler experienced a commencement of their own: retirement.

One by one, residents, colleagues, school and government officials filed into the center, signing autograph books that were earmarked for the retirees, sipping on punch, coffee and tea from standard school issue foam cups. Small talk was prevalent at first — some chatted about the news issues of the day, others joked around good naturedly — but an overall solemn sense of community seemed to pervade on this night.

Some time after an introduction by Superintendent Mark Harpst which extolled the group’s 264 combined years of service, did that point really drive home to the more than 100 people in attendance.

One by one, guest speakers took to the podium, alternately roasting and praising their assigned retiree, before bestowing a crystal trophy upon them. All of the speeches touched on the individual character traits of the individual members. Miller was ordained the “Queen of 92 Highway, ” Fadler was decreed to be “forever a Pirate, ”and Greg McPherson was proclaimed an “average golfer,” for instance.

Still, in the final analysis, one theme was universal: they were being recognized for their commitment to the students and the community and for that they would certainly be missed.

But just as the graduating senior class was about to learn, a torch was being passed and the school community would move forward. No less than 15 minutes after the retirement ceremony had concluded, the guests were making their way to the east lawn of the R-3 complex, there to observe the groundbreaking ceremony of their $17 million middle school project. The event was largely more than ceremonial, it was also a promise fulfilled: Harpst had told voters he had hoped to break ground prior to June 1st if the school’s bond issue was approved.

It was and they did.

Although the weather wasn’t cooperating (it was cold and damp on that day, the field reduced to a muddy sponge), the spirit at the site was upbeat and jovial. The high school band blared the country’s national anthem as onlookers removed their hats and placed their hands over their hearts. There seemed to be no doubt among those in attendance that a bright future lay ahead for the district as the selected luminaries dug their ceremonial shovels into the ground, commemorating the project’s start, mugging for the cameras.

And after a night of ceremony, where people struggled to put into words exactly what they were feeling, perhaps Harpst said it best when he made a brief aside to a local newspaper reporter from 252 Main Street.

“There’s just a lot of enthusiasm here.”

And for a district that is used to winning and working hard, much as Coach Lombardi described, that’s a feeling the community will most assuredly never want to surrender.

 
 

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