KEARNEY — As the Kearney School District says goodbye to a slew of graduating seniors and outgoing faculty, so to does it say goodbye to two longtime district administration support staffers.
Carolyn Switzer, the board secretary and the administrative assistant to the superintendent, will mark an end to her 21.5 years on June 14. In her more than two decades at the right of the superintendent and recorder of all-things school board meeting, Switzer has worked for four superintendents, six board presidents and has seen 23 school board members come and go.
“It can be a hard job. There are things I hear or know about and there’s a lot of information I can’t share but you just have to be calm and carry on,” she said of years working with sometimes sensitive or closed personnel and student records-related details.School board President Mark Kelly said Switzer served as secretary for a dozen years with him on the board. During the presentation of an award to Switzer for her years of service at the May 22 school board meeting, the last Switzer will attend as board secretary, Kelly shared an emotional moment with Switzer, expressing joy for her that she can spend more time with her grandchildren. He said the glass plague was just a small token of the board’s appreciation for her decades of dedication.
Superintendent Bill Nicely said Switzer has worked with him for a decade.
“It just hit me, ugh, 10 years she spent with me, that’s a long time. From two positions, my administrative assistant, which is to do everything under the sun; and the board secretary, which is responsible to all of these people and the board of education, ... the amount of information she has and holds and keeps sacred is incredibly important. There’s nobody that does it better than Carolyn, and for that, she has all of our respect. We will miss that,” he said.
Switzer said she took the job working for district administration after seeking a career move that would allow her to be close to home and have opportunities to be involved in her children’s school lives as they were in high school at the time.
“It’s been a great district to work for,” she said, adding she has had unique opportunities with her family others may not get by working for the school district.
“I’ve got to watch a lot of kids excel. I watched my own grandkids do well. My granddaughter graduated and I got to sign her diploma,” she said.
Switzer said a lot has changed in the district’s last two decades.
“When I started, we had six in the office, three administrators and three assistants,” she said. “I’m going to miss the people. The central office employees are like a big family. And there’s the board. I’ve become protective over my board.”
In retirement, Switzer said she plans to spent more time with her family. She has a granddaughter headed to Central Methodist University in Fayette to play softball and wants to watch her games along with another seven grandchildren she hopes to have fun with.
Switzer said she also hopes to spend more quality time with her mother who is 95.
Since starting as a part-time central office employee in 1988 before becoming full time, Pam Bultmann, who many know as the first person they see entering the Early Education Center and administrative offices, said she started working for the district after searching for something close to home that would give her a chance to be involved in her children’s school activities.
“I had a computer background a little bit and at that time, computers were kind of new. My first computer was an Apple 2E. I remember that vividly,” she said. “... It’s just a great school district with small-town schools. It’s kind of team in the offices. … My kids were growing and I just continued to stay. Before you know it, 20 years has gone by and now 30.”
Over the years, Bultmann has worked under five superintendents and has seen her duties expand. She’s had the unique experience of having an indirect hand in the education and caretaking of thousands of students as working as the assistant to assistant superintendents assisting in curriculum development, taking calls and messages for district administrators, working with heads of custodial services, being in charge of purchase orders for food and cafeteria equipment and menu development and overseeing the free and reduced lunch program.
In her time in the central district office, Bultmann said she has seen a lot of changes in district staff.
“I can only think of a couple people still here from when I started,” she said, adding she has become close with Switzer. The two have regularly organized and prepared meals for outgoing retirement groups for years.
“Pam was one of the only people here when I started,” said Switzer.
“Some of my fondest memories will be those colleagues,” said Bultmann.
District facilities have also changed a lot in Bultmann’s time.
“The first couple of years when I was here was when the high school was built. There was already what they called the annex out there at the time. It was a small building out there. … I had a son that attended the annex,” she said. “The high school was basically built on to that annex to what it was prior to this whole new construction. That whole area out there was called south campus.”
Since the high school’s construction, Bultmann witnessed Southview and Dogwood elementaries being built, Summit Ridge, now called Kearney Junior High School; the new high school gym and school updates, the middle school updates, construction of new the tennis court complex and the Early Education Center and administrative offices in the former Price Chopper at the corner of Missouri Highways 92 and 33.
Moving the central office to a shared space with the educational center, Bultmann said has been a highlight as she gets to have direct interaction with some of the district’s youngest students.
“During 29 of my 30 years in the district office we have never had kids around us on a daily basis. Because of this, my hope has always been that somehow, someway my job has made a positive contribution to student success.Moving our office to the new location this last year has given me the awesome opportunity to see kids everyday,” she said. “I get ‘Good Morning, Miss Pam,’ hugs and high-fives. I get shown loose teeth, artwork of the day and on and on. It has been a complete joy to be here at the Early Education Center during my last year at Kearney schools.”
“Pam Bultmann’s role at central office significantly changed with the opening of the Early Education Center. In addition to her normal duties, she also added greeting all the central office and EEC students and families when they come to the building. Pam has had such a positive impact on the district and it shows how she interacts with every child, parent and staff member in the district. She will greatly be missed,” said Assistant Superintendent of Special Programs Angie Currey.
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Student Services Jeff Morrison said Bultmann is one of the nicest people he knows and has been an asset to the district.
“Pam has fulfilled so many duties for the district over the years that we as district office personnel will miss the flexibility and willingness to help everyone,” he said. “The district congratulates her as she retires while knowing Pam will be deeply missed ....”
Bultmann said retirement is bittersweet for her as the school district is all she’s known for years, but she looks forward to pursuing other interests and spending time with loved ones.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me to work for the school district,” she said.