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Longtime educator honored by Hays High

9/27/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

She helped develop the gifted education program in Hays USD 489 in the early 1980s and had no plans of ever leaving that job.

But Carol Shepherd agreed to step in as principal for one year when the district was planning to close Jefferson Elementary School at the end of the 1997-98 school year.

By the time Shepherd was able to retire under the state's "85" retirement plan -- years of service plus age -- she still was serving as a principal in the district.

Shepherd, who moved from Jefferson to the head job at Roosevelt Elementary School in 1999 before retiring in 2008, has been chosen the Hays High School alumni distinguished service award winner for 2013.

She was to be honored at the homecoming assembly at HHS today, then ride down Main Street in the homecoming parade this afternoon.

Shepherd said she was surprised when informed of the honor, one that has revived a lot of fond memories of her education career in Hays.

"It was hard to give up that gifted ed job," Shepherd said of a conversation she had with Fred Kaufman, then superintendent of USD 489, who asked her to take the Jefferson principal post for its final year. "But I thought it was going to be a one-year thing."

That all changed when the Roosevelt principal left at the end of that year, and Kaufman asked Shepherd to step in.

"It was a place where (the district) needed someone, and it was another challenge in my life," she said. "So I kind of looked forward to it."

Shepherd served as Roosevelt's principal for 10 years before retiring. Her youngest son was to be married during that next school year, and she thought Roosevelt was in a good place at the time.

"Things were going well," she said. "Test scores were good, teachers were wonderful, we had a lot of support from parents and the community, had wonderful dedicated teachers.

"I was proud of what was happening over (at Roosevelt). I thought, 'Why not go out when things are good?'

"I thought I had the best job in the world."

She still does.

"I've gotten good at my retirement job," Shepherd said with a laugh.

That includes working with programs such as Fort Hays State University's Foster Grandparents and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County, as well as volunteering at Hays Medical Center, where she works in the gift shop.

"The community gave a lot to me," said Shepherd, who decided to stay in Hays after retirement. "I've always been of the belief it's good to give back to the community."