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Eyes on retirement





Donna Cooper has a long list of things to do in retirement -- near the top is sleeping in.

That, for Cooper, is approximately 8 a.m.

Cooper, who has taught biology at Hays High School for more than 40 years, retired this year, along with a long list of others who have taught in Hays USD 489 for a mind-boggling combined 500-plus years of service to the district.

Following retirement receptions and parties during the past several weeks of school, more than 20 employees are taking a break to do something for themselves.

Cooper, who heads the list of longtime employees with 44 years, said she plans to "do a little gardening, air up the tires on my bicycle, go to the health center and read some books -- that aren't biology."

Cooper is followed closely in years of service by Marilyn Davidson, first-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, with 43.

Both started teaching in the district the late 1960s.

Larry Keil, longtime teacher at Kennedy Middle School who finished his career at Hays Middle School this year, came to the district in the late 1970s, as did Mary Alice Brent, a special-education teacher, and Shiela Brening, director of nutritional services.

"We lost some all-stars, that's for sure," said Will Roth, USD 489 superintendent who in his 28 years in the district has worked with all of this year's retirees.

An anonymous quote printed on the front of a program at Tuesday's retirement celebration read: "We must learn to take time to appreciate the joy of the moment, to celebrate and cherish the contributions and achievements of a career."

Now, Cooper, Davidson and all the other retirees have a little more time to reflect on their achievements.

"Remember back before you went to school, your preschool days, when you could have a leisurely bowl of cereal and not have to hurry or be thinking about what you were going to do for the day?" Cooper asked. "That's what I think I'll do."