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Brown to retire after 30 years in Berkeley County Schools

October 14, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Mary Jo Brown has spent the past 52 years of her life adhering to a school calendar. She's about to find out what life is like living from January to December.

Brown's last day with Berkeley County Schools will be a week from today. After starting as a second-grade teacher 30 years ago, Brown, now 57, worked as a principal, in school libraries and as the county's coordinator of media services before taking on her most recent role - director of public relations in 1995.

"I get up every day and I love coming to work. That's what has made this really hard," Brown said of her retirement. "I don't think there are many people that can say they love their job."

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Influencing Brown's decision to retire is the health of her mother, 91-year-old Dorothy Ziler. Spending more time with her is one of Brown's plans, though she said she also hopes to travel and most likely will continue working somewhere.

"I'm way too young to go home to the knitting and the rocking chair," she said.

Brown oversees the school system's print shop, which prints all materials for the county's 14,000 students and all employees.

Her passion, she said, is the Instructional Resource Center. Teachers and members of the community can use the center to help with various types of projects.

Brown also is the spokeswoman for the county school system, fielding calls from the media at all hours.

"I'm going to miss the craziness of the work schedule," she said.

She'll also miss the excitement of helping people, she said, and the 4:30 a.m. calls from Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon as he drives along snow-covered roads to determine whether school should be canceled.

People who work within the school system know each other and look out for one another, she said.

"Manny says this frequently: It's like a family. It really is," she said. "Even though we're growing, there's still that familiarity and that family unit feeling."

Brown, a lifelong Berkeley County resident who graduated from Martinsburg High School before receiving degrees from Shepherd College and West Virginia University, said she's lucky to live and work in such a supportive area.

"I think it's important in a community that the community understands the importance of teachers. And I think that's true in Berkeley County," she said. "This community's very interested in what's happening in our schools."

Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto called Brown wonderful.

"She's just a super person, first of all. She is totally dedicated," Aliveto said. "I think the greatest asset is her energy and her ability to multi-task. She's just done so many good things for the school system over the years. I know that we're going to miss her."

Wherever life leads Brown, she said she will not stray too far from schools. At the very least, she said, she'll volunteer.

"I think you need to be around students. I think it helps keep you youthful," she said. "The school system has been good to me. It's brought me a lot of pleasure. I wouldn't walk away completely. How could I?"

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