MT. VERNON – Presiding over Summersville S.D. #79 has been immensely rewarding for Superintendent Anita Hays.
But the possibility of losing her pension if she waits to retire has led Hays to step down, effective June 30. The district has hired Mark Zahm as her replacement and he will start July 1.
Hays is one of a number of area educators who are retiring at the end of this school year.
Hays served as superintendent for four years. Before that, she taught at Summersville Grade School for 24 years.
“Summersville is the best neighborhood school in Jefferson County,” Hays said. “The community is great to work with.”
For Zahm, working in Mt. Vernon will be a homecoming of sorts. Earlier in his career, he was the principal at nearby Woodlawn High School. Currently, Zahm is the principal at Frankfort Intermediate School in West Frankfort.
“Anita's done a great job with the district,” Zahm said. “I just hope I can live up to those expectations.”
In addition to Hays, Summersville Grade School had four other retirements, including Donna Yearwood, third grade teacher; Kathy Lowery, first grade teacher; Judy Parker, Title 1 remedial reading instructor; and Barbara Williams, teacher's aide.
Rome Grade School is losing kindergarten teacher Betty Malone, who has taught there for 21 years. She is retiring to spend more time with family, but said teaching was a “dream come true.”
To Malone, kindergarten is a special time for children as it is when they begin their educational journey.
“Children probably change more during that school year than any other time,” Malone said. “It's when they learn to read and write.”
The search for Malone's replacement is underway, but it will be difficult to find another teacher with such a wealth of experience, said Ali Tkaczenko, principal at Rome Grade School.
“It always is hard for the school because you're losing someone who has all the background knowledge of the school and the history,” Tkaczenko said. “But we wish her well.”