The Edmond Sun

May 17, 2013

41-year administrator retiring but has no plans to quit educating

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — As Lynne Rowley, executive director of elementary education, reminisced over the past 41 years she has worked in education, she shared what it was like when she first started teaching in the Edmond School District, how things have changed and her plans for retirement.

Rowley will be leaving the district at the end of this school year, after serving the district in the classroom, as an assistant principal and then principal and later as a district administrator.

As a preacher’s kid, Rowley said the strong influence of her parents naturally led to her teaching and working with Bible classes, and she decided then to try teaching as a career.

“When I was growing up you had four career paths from which to choose,” Rowley said. “You could be a secretary, a nurse, a teacher or a wife. I chose teaching. My plan was to teach five years and pay back my government loan. Then I got hooked.”

Rowley said she was fortunate to work in an area where she felt she was making a difference in the world.

“John F. Kennedy emphasized in his Inaugural speech in the 1960s that being of service was important,” she said.

Superintendent David Goin praised Rowley for her work with the district.

“It  has been a privilege to work with Lynne Rowley over the last 19 years,” said Edmond Superintendent of Schools David Goin. “She is a quality individual and caring professional who has devoted her entire career to the young children of our community. I consider her both a colleague and friend.  

“As a teacher, principal and district-level administrator, Lynne has served as a mentor for numerous teachers and principals during her more than four decades as one of Edmond’s most distinguished educators. She has been a tireless advocate for the development of effective early childhood and elementary education programs.

“As Mrs. Rowley draws to a close this phase of her career, I hope she is taking great satisfaction in having been a key leader most recently, in successfully implementing high quality full-day kindergarten classes for all of Edmond’s public elementary schools.”

Career begins as classroom educator

Rowley started her classroom career at the newly opened Will Rogers Elementary, an open concept school, where she began her fourth-grade teaching career in 1972.

“The district was so small that I was interviewed and hired by the superintendent, Hugh Bingham,” Rowley said, “something that is unheard of today. My husband told me if I was offered at least $6,000 to take the job.”

She was and she did. She and her husband, Bob Rowley, have been married 42 years, and he has been on the faculty of Oklahoma Christian University, where they met, for 43 years.

“I showed up with the rest of the teachers at convocation, met the principal and received by teaching assignment.”  

She added today the hiring is done by a personnel director working with administrators, and positions are filled as soon as a qualified candidate is found so they can start preparing for the coming school year.

From there she moved to Chisholm Elementary where she continued teaching fourth graders in a team teaching situation for 13 additional years.

“A tornado had knocked the air conditioning units off the roof of Chisholm so we started the first day of school in Memorial’s cafeteria,” Rowley said. “I will never forget the challenge of walking the children across Memorial’s football field to recess.”

Rowley team taught with Sandy Bishop and said it was a good team.

“She taught math and science and I taught reading, language arts and social studies,” Rowley added.

Rowley begins new role as district administrator

She served as assistant principal at Sunset Elementary under the mentorship of Barbara Siano.

“The district was smaller then and there were few if any assistant principals,” Rowley said. “Washington Irving Elementary was under construction during that time.”

Being an assistant principal at that time was fortuitous for her. When Washington Irving was completed and opened in the fall, Rowley was chosen to lead the faculty and close to 600 students as principal.  

“Opening a new school was a challenge,” Rowley said, “but Barbara Siano continued to be my mentor and with her strategic thinking she guided me through that first year. Her husband, Joe Siano, now the Norman superintendent, told me before school started that some time in November I will realize I am having a good time, and he was right.”

Rowley said one of the fulfilling parts of classroom teaching for her was when she saw that light bulb go off and a student began to understand a concept.

“The most fulfilling part of education is years later when you see that child grown into an adult working in the community,” Rowley said.

Rowley said she has enjoyed each part of her career, but wanting to have a greater impact over more students’ lives is what propelled her to go into administration on a district level.

She added there are changes in two areas that really stand out to her as an administrator. One is the fully implemented and expanded pre-kindergarten classes and going to full-day kindergarten.

“Research supports early exposure to language provides readiness and the foundation to be successful in school,” Rowley said, “and the children learn to interact socially, which is also important.”

Changes and growth in technology have been unbelievable, Rowley added.

“And it will continue to change. Just as technology changes education has to change because the world our students live in is changing.”

Rowley added students must not only learn content but also learn examination of it to make decisions.

“You cannot learn to problem solve and analyze from just learning from content instruction,” Rowley said. “We must take content instruction to the next level.”

Rowley said the challenges facing education are huge, but one that is looming large at this time is finding a pool of teaching candidates from which to choose.

“Teaching is hard work,” Rowley said. “Teaching salaries in Oklahoma are not competitive with other states or with industry.”

Plans include educating public, lawmakers

Rowley said leaving the classroom does not mean leaving education. For her it is taking the challenges facing educators to a new level and becoming more actively involved in the education process on a different field.

She said her plans include writing  letters to the editor and actively engaging lawmakers in discussions and decisions concerning education.

“I am concerned the people who are driving the decision-making in education are not educators,” Rowley said.

She added she anticipates finding ways she can help make changes in education as it goes to the next level. Many times she said that means becoming more active in dialoguing.

“It is an unprecedented time for reform,” Rowley said. “Reforms we are going through are positive, but I believe there needs to be more concern for the pace of reform. We need consideration for what makes effective reform and the funds to make it happen.”

Rowley said throughout her years in education she has always put herself in parents’ shoes.

“They only want what is best for their child, which is what we want,” Rowley said. “We can work together to make that happen.”

Rowley said while watching a motivational film, Coach Lou Holtz said something that has stayed with her. “He said, ‘Everything in life falls under three things: Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.’

“I wish I had known this when I was making my Classroom Rules with my students,” Rowley said laughing. “The Classroom Rules sheet would have been much shorter.”