Union 93 secretary retiring after 35 years

Posted Jan. 31, 2010, at 10:56 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.

BLUE HILL, Maine — The Union 93 superintendent and his new secretary had been moving boxes of records when he suggested they have lunch. At the restaurant, he offered to order a glass of wine.

The secretary demurred.

“I’m not old enough to drink,” she said.

“I can still remember the look on his face,” Pat Henry said, mimicking the superintendent’s dropped-jaw, wide-eyed reaction. “It said, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t even hire an adult.”’

That was 1974. Pat Henry was just 17 and two weeks out of George Stevens Academy when she was hired as the secretary for School Union 93. Now, 35 years and eight months later, Henry will leave Union 93 — retiring from the first and only job she ever has had.

“It’s a great job,” she said recently. “I tell people I’m leaving the best job on the peninsula. There’s never been a day when I got up and didn’t want to go to work.”

She pointed at her desk, which held part of her workload for the day sorted in piles.

“Every day is different,” she said. “That’s what keeps it interesting.”

Henry came to the school union, which covers schools in Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot, at a time of change. A longtime superintendent and his wife, who had been his secretary, had run the school union out of their home. The new superintendent needed a secretary and an office.

They set up a temporary office at GSA while a permanent spot was prepared at the town hall in Blue Hill.

“We had to set up all the files; everything was in boxes,” she said. “We lived out of suitcases for a while. We learned from it, but there were a lot of things that didn’t go right for a while.”

But she learned and kept on learning. Through 14 superintendents — including five interim administrators — she kept up with the changes that transformed the office from a pencil and paper operation to a computerized office and kept track of the often arcane world of education processes, regulations and budgets, occasionally providing answers when the superintendent could not.

But basically, Henry said, the job is the same. The paperwork is different, though, thanks to computers.

“The reports require a lot more. There’s a lot more detail than we used to have,” she said. “With computers there’s more and more information to keep track of than in the past. We like to create data and generate statistics. The technology enables us to generate a lot more than if we had to do it with pencil and paper.”

Over the years, Henry has dealt with a wide variety of people who interact with the schools — school secretaries, selectmen, budget committee members, teachers, administrators and staff that have been hired in the past 35 years, as well as the parents and students.

“Think of all those people I’ve met,” she said. “I love to meet people. That’s going to be a gap.”

Henry’s last day will be Feb. 26, a date pegged to two important events: the school budget season and the start of the college baseball season. By the end of February, she said, the budgets for the schools in the union will be completed and ready to be printed. That will leave her time to travel with her husband, Jim, to Arizona to support her son Collin as the University of Southern Maine baseball team starts its season.

“It may be a little selfish, but I wanted to have the time to enjoy Collin’s last college baseball season,” she said.

Henry said the couple plans to take three months off and to do some sightseeing while in Arizona, including the Grand Canyon. After that, she said, she’ll look for another job.

“It’s time for something different,” she said, although she doesn’t yet know what that might be. “I like cooking, I like older people, I like numbers.”

With just one job in the past 35 years, she joked that her resume will be very short.

“Just one line.”

The staff at Union 93 has planned a celebration for Henry 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Barncastle Restaurant to celebrate her retirement.

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