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The Hamilton County Department of Education building is shown in this file photo.
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Lee McDade

With the end of the school year came the end of lengthy careers for some employees of the Hamilton County school system. This year, longtime central office staff members Lee McDade, Christie Jordan and several others have retired.

Included in the list of 2017-2018 retirees is former interim superintendent Kirk Kelly, who was with the school system for 35 years. Kelly officially announced his retirement after Bryan Johnson took over the helm of the district last July. Kelly served in the position for more than a year while the district searched for a leader after Superintendent Rick Smith resigned in March 2016 after months of turmoil following the 2015 Ooltewah High School rape.

Retiring at the end of this fiscal year are chief of school operations McDade, who has been with the district 30 years; Jordan, assistant superintendent of the finance department, retiring after 28 years; Col. Thomas McConnell, director of the district's JROTC program; and Stacey Stewart, assistant superintendent of human resources, after 32 years.

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Christie Jordan

The longest-serving district employee to retire this fiscal year is Jane Barker, director of school-aged child care, who had been with the district for 45 years.

Many in the district office knew McDade would retire at the end of this year — his wife, Big Ridge Elementary assistant principal Connie McDade, died last December — but that didn't lessen the impact of his loss or that of Jordan, said Superintendent Bryan Johnson.

"You won't find two people with a bigger heart for this work and for children," Johnson said. "As a new superintendent, coming into a system with that institutional knowledge is critical for success."

Jordan will remain with the district as replacements are hired for Don Reynolds, the director of the purchasing department who has also retired, and Don Hall, Johnson's new chief business officer. Hall recently submitted his resignation after only about six months on the job.

Kenneth Bradshaw recently has joined the central office as the new chief operations officer, taking over for McDade.

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Kirk Kelly

Other retirements at the district level include Margaret Abernathy, director of exceptional education; Carolyn Childs, director of school nutrition; Jeannie Curtis, director of human resources; Kathy Edgemon, finance department budget coordinator; and Jill Reese, coordinator of curriculum and instruction.

Dan Liner, representative for the district and president of the Hamilton County Teachers Association, also will retire after 14 years with the district. Jeanette Omarkhail will take over as president of the Hamilton County Education Association.

Ten principals retired during the 2017-2018 fiscal year as well:

» Gail Chuy, principal at East Hamilton Middle/High School (with the district 13 years)

» Norma Faerber, principal at Alpine Crest Elementary (22 years)

» Julie Fine, principal at Hixson Elementary (36 years)

» Julius Hargrove, principal at Tyner Academy (34 years)

» Penny Leffew, principal at Wolftever Elementary (31 years)

» Rick Rushworth, principal at Lookout Valley Middle/High (43 years)

» Alisan Taylor, principal at Lookout Valley Elementary (34 years)

» Samantha Walter, principal at Daisy Elementary (30 years)

» Earlene Weeks, principal at Allen Elementary (31 years)

» Margo Williams, principal at Westview Elementary (39.5 years)

Excluding administrators, 163 school-based employees retired from Hamilton County Schools this year, according to Keith Fogleman, the district's chief talent office.

Of those retirees, 113 were teachers and librarians and the other 50 included staff in a variety of roles including bookkeepers, secretary, speech language pathologists, and more according to Fogleman.

The board approved a three-tier retirement incentive proposed by Johnson in February that he pitched could save the district an estimated $20,000 a year per person.

The three tiers to the one-time incentive package are: employees who had worked 25 years would receive 25 percent of their annual salary; employees who worked 20-24 years would receive 20 percent of their annual salary; and employees who had worked 10 or more years and were at least 65 years old would get 15 percent of their annual salary.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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