The Board of Education members and Hastings school district superintendent attending a retirement reception for school staff are (from left, front row): Mike Nickels, Superintendent Carrie Duits, Valerie Slaughter, (back) Louis Wierenga, Dan Patton, Jennifer Eastman and Luke Haywood. School board member Rob Pohls was absent. Joan Van Houten
Retirees of Hastings Area School System were honored for their service at a reception Monday. The five retirees have served the district a total of 84.75 years.
The names and years of service of the staff and administration retiring are: Superintendent Carrie Duits, five years; Carol Carroll, middle school paraprofessional, 20 years; Dan Blair, maintenance, districtwide, 26.5 years; Charles Converse, transportation, eight years; and Steven Loomis, teacher, Hastings High School, 25.2 years.
Duits and Loomis were present at the reception. Carroll, Blair and Converse were unable to attend. The event took place at the Hastings High School Performing Arts Center.
Teresa Heide, high school principal, introduced Loomis and described him as “an incredible educator of 25 years.”
Loomis attended Western Michigan University for his bachelors degree, then went on to earn a masters degree. His career began with long-term substitute teaching jobs in neighboring districts until he was hired to teach in Hastings.
“In all those years, you grew up from the new teacher you once were,” Heide told him. “You learned about kids and how to help them navigate the thrilling years of high school and social crisis that they inevitably go through. You made incredible friends and acquaintances along the way. You figured out when to battle for your convictions and when to wave the white flag. You taught not only the students, but all of us as well.
“You are truly an amazing man and educator. We at Hastings High School wish you all the best in your future endeavors and urge you to continue teaching in all you do. You will be greatly missed.”
Heide announced that he has obtained a job at Gun Lake Golf Course and suggested golf enthusiasts drop by to say hello, Loomis’ jokingly responded: “I’m just mowing lawn, and I’m not stopping for anyone.”
Next to speak was Luke Haywood, president of the Board of Education, who introduced Duits.
“It was truly a blessing to our community to have Carrie return to her alma matter nearly five decades after she graduated to finish her career and leave an everlasting impression on our district,” Haywood said. “She stepped in to lead our district and help our administration team; get us back on track, putting us in the good position we are in today.”
Haywood credited Duits with students being safer because of the new security entrances at all the schools,\; students having more opportunities because of the improvements at the high school that include the performing arts center and the expanded and renovated Career Technical Education spaces, such as the engineering and design lab and renovated science labs.
“As board members, we could not have asked for a better person with such high character, integrity and determination to lead our district the past five years. We have sailed together through a few rough storms, but have enjoyed so many moments of success and triumph for our district and our students,” Haywood said.
Duits said she plans to remain in Hastings after her retirement begins June 1.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I will always be here to help in any way I can.”