ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Only a few weeks after Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon, Joyce Medley stepped foot into a previously unexplored world of her own: the public-school office.
Armstrong flew home days later to the accolades of the masses, but Medley continued working in the public-school environment until last Friday, when she officially retired as board treasurer for USD 410, a position she held for the past 22 years.
Even though students, teachers and administrators get most of the attention in the public-school system, Medley said her expedition has been personally fulfilling.
“It’s very rewarding to feel like you are perhaps, in a small way, helping a child to get an education-and to have them come up to you and be glad to see you,” she said.
Had it been left to her own initiative, she might have never had the opportunity. But in 1969, she was asked to be the office secretary at Durham High School.
“I hadn’t planned to go to work at that point,” Medley said. “I told them no, but then I got to thinking that it was getting close to the years when my kids would be in college. So I called them back in a couple of weeks. They hadn’t hired anybody, and I got the job.”
In January 1980, Robert C. Brown, who was USD 410 superintendent at the time, asked Medley to fill an opening in the central office in Hillsboro.
The month before, her husband had died after a long illness. The opportunity to move to a year-round position was well timed.
“I just needed a full-time job, to be honest,” Medley said.
Over the 22 years since, she’s witnessed more than a few changes.
“When I first started here, we were still down at the middle school,” she said. “Then we moved (to the elementary school) that following summer. Actually, I was building secretary as well as central office secretary and treasurer for quite a few years.”
After Brown retired, Medley took over the task of being food-service director, too. That meant paying the bills, completing reports and handling student applications for free reduced-price lunches.
In fact, most of Medley’s tasks over the years have involved record-keeping and reporting of one kind or another. She has been in charge of sending out staff contracts each July, depositing district funds, balancing accounts, and filing reports about food service, transportation and absentees, to name a few.
For all the work she’s done with numbers over the years, Medley said she never had formal training in record-keeping or accounting.
“I worked in the bank at Durham when I was first out of college, and then when I was married for a few years,” she said. “I learned some accounting there, but I didn’t really have any official training.”
The kind of reporting the state requires has changed over the years, she said, and so has the method for sending them in.
“Almost any report anymore, you do directly over the Internet, where everything used to be typed up,” she said.
Medley said she has enjoyed all phases of her job, but her connection with people with whom she interacts day by day is what she’ll miss most.
“I enjoyed the people here, and I always enjoyed the children, too, when I had occasion to seem them,” she said. “It’s always kind of interesting to watch them in the halls.”
Deciding to retire was difficult, she added.
“I should have retired a number of years ago,” she said. “But I’ve never had a problem with health so I kept on. But I decided it’s time to let younger ones take over.”
For the past few months, Medley has been training one of those “younger ones.” Carla Harmon officially took over the job Sept. 1.
“It has gone very, very well,” Medley said of the transition process. “She’s doing great.”
As current superintendent, Gordon Mohn has been Medley’s boss for the past 10-plus years. He knew her well even before that because his parents were friends with Medley and her family.
“It’s been interesting to work alongside her as two adults,” Mohn said.
“Joyce always has a positive attitude,” he said. “She always acted like she enjoyed her work-and I think she did enjoy it. And she dealt with people real well. I thought she always tried to be accommodating. She’s a good person.”
Mohn said her departure will have an impact on the office.
“She’s worked 30-plus years (for the district),” he said. “Just the amount of knowledge she has about the way the organization works, where things are, the history of it…. If you look at both Joyce and Marilyn (Schmidt, business manager) leaving in the last three years, a lot of that history left with them.”
Medley said she doesn’t have specific plans now that she’s stepped foot into retirement.
“Hopefully, I’ll do a little traveling and get caught up with things at home,” she said. “And I am involved in quite a few other things that really keep me busy.
“I don’t anticipate being bored.”