News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY Connie Scobey, who has organized Scholarship Recognition for years, is retiring. Jim Brooks thanked her for dedication and passion at the 2012 ceremony, which was Scobey's last.
published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Scobey ready for a comfortable rocking chair
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Connie Scobey, secretary for the School Board of Highlands County, is retiring this spring after more than 30 years working for the district.
She is one of those indispensable people behind the scenes who not only makes things run smoothly, but adds humanity and passion to the process.
For someone who is essential, Scobey is modest. She is very aware of being part a team. She also understands that at this point in her career she has become historical -- only Superintendent Wally Cox has served longer. Along the way, Scobey became such a wealth of knowledge about the district's past that the Sebring Historical Society calls her regularly.
She didn't start out in Highlands County, having grown up in a small town in rural Illinois doing farm chores. She lived in the same farm house where her father grew up and attended the little church her great-grandfather built.
Scobey arrived in Highlands County in 1978 with her first husband, who came to attend then South Florida Community College. They hadn't intended to stay, but "the people were so friendly, and it was so beautiful it really caught us up," she said.
With a secretarial background and language arts skills, Scobey went to work for the school board at Fred Wild Elementary School as a migrant aide in 1981. She tutored children in language arts.
She discovered education wasn't for her, however, and when she was offered an opportunity to work in the district's purchasing department she jumped at it.
That lead to an offer to work accounts payable in the finance department with the finance director.
In 1993, she was urged to apply for the position of school board secretary. She had to retake all the office skills tests, including typing and math.
Cox, then director of finance and her boss, tutored her to prepare for the math.
The tests were followed by an interview with the school board itself, which was held in the board's chambers. Scobey remembers having to sit at a small black table in the middle of the room. "The questions came pow, pow, pow. That was an experience in itself," she said, laughing at the memory.
Most people have no idea of what she does all day, including other office staff at the district's headquarters.
"All you do are the minutes and agenda," she said people have told her. The truth is very different.
"There a lot of details," Scobey explained. "You have to be pretty organized and good with details and meeting deadlines. You're involved with the entire system. You have to be able to read people."
Her responsibilities include keeping tabs on school issues before the legislature and keeping the board informed. She reviews the policy manual, monitors student discipline results, forwarding them to board members. She deals with a lot of parents, communicates with school principals, composes cover letters and deals with correspondence.
She is one of the individuals leading the transfer from paper to electronic records, and worked on providing the school board's agenda and packet on the school board's website.
"There is now a lot of data online," she said.
When Scobey began there were no computers. She worked with typewriters, carbon paper and White Out. Then came the computer revolution.
At the start she had to learn DOS, then learn about personal computers and many different software programs.
"We've come a long way. I've learned an awful lot over the years," she said, laughing again. In fact, Scobey is upbeat, energetic, and prone to laughter. She is proud of working her way up.
She witnessed many other changes. When Scobey first began as school board secretary, the district's print shop was where her office is now.
Changes in the legislature's attitude toward education sadden her. "In the past, they paid more attention and allowed local control. Now education is on the back burner."
Scholarship Recognition is her greatest passion.
Scobey organized the annual celebration of honor roll students and their hard work for years. She remembers when her two daughters were getting ready for college and a lack of money was a major obstacle.
Soon she'll be moving to Tennessee, where she and her husband plan to indulge in all the interests for which they haven't had time, like wood working, crafts and gardening.
When she's not busy, she said she'll be sitting in her rocker enjoying the view.
"It has been an adventure," Scobey said, speaking of her career.
"A lot of my dreams have come true. I've been very blessed."
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