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Monday’s school board meeting was the final one for Joe Drake as Mount Ayr’s superintendent, who plans to retire June 30 at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year.
Drake has served as a shared superintendent with the Bedford school district for the past 10 years.
Drake, however, was no stranger to Mount Ayr and Ringgold County. He started school in Diagonal where his kindergarten classmate was Darla Sobotka, who also retired this year after teaching 30 years at Mount Ayr Elementary.
Drake’s family moved to Mount Ayr when he started first grade, and he attended school here through the end of his junior year.
At that time his father was transferred to Red Oak, where Drake graduated from high school in 1978.
Following graduation, he attended Northwest Missouri State University and received a bachelor’s degree in physical education/health and drivers education in 1982.
(He earned a masters degree in secondary school administration in 1985 and a specialist degree from Northwest in the fall of 1993.)
“I could not find a job to start the 1982-83 school year after graduation,” Drake said. “PE teachers were plentiful and I was a little shy in those years, so I am sure I was not the best candidate. I finally found a job in early August at North Harrison (MO) teaching 7-12 social studies and was the head boys baseball and girls softball coach. These sports were both in the fall in those days.
“Since I was not certified to teach social studies, I ended up staying up most of the night prepping for lessons the next day after I conducted practices for boys and girls, plus I was expected to mow and prep the field! About a month in, I went to my superintendent and asked to be released from my contract. I knew I was in over my head. I was a PE teacher and coach and had no business trying to teach social studies.”
At that point he moved back to Mount Ayr and found a job working for Keith and Kurt Lininger (current Mount Ayr board president Brandi Shay’s dad and grandpa) hauling in grain.
Sometime in early October, Drake said he received a call from the superintendent at South Nodaway R-IV school in Barnard, MO.
“I interviewed on a Wednesday and got a call on Friday and asked if I could start on Monday,” he recalled.
Drake accepted the offer to teach PE and driver’s education and coach football, basketball and track.
He spent three years in this position before moving up to become South Nodaway’s half-time principal and half-time PE teacher and football coach.
Drake stayed in that position for four more years before accepting the position of full-time principal and football coach at Fairfax (MO) in the fall of 1989.
Drake became the superintendent in Bedford in 1993 and became a shared superintendent with Clearfield in 2006.
For a time Drake was superintendent of three districts when he became the shared superintendent in Mount Ayr in 2010.
Over his 38 years in education, Drake has seen many changes.
“The two things that stick out to me is the use of technology in the classroom and the importance of the one-cent sales tax for building improvements,” he said.
He also noted significant changes during his time at Mount Ayr.
“I am proud that we have been able to work together to stabilize the general fund budget, improve test scores and have made many improvements to the facility,
“It’s been a privilege to serve as the Mount Ayr Community School. I appreciate the support of the school staff, community and the board over the past 10 years. Together, we have worked to make Mount Ayr Community School a better place for the students that we all serve. Thanks again for the opportunity.”
So what’s in store for Drake in his retirement?
“I have invested in a tractor, tiller and seeder so I will be doing some seeding of new lawns and overseeding existing lawns,” he said. “This is very seasonal but this is what I will be doing part time. The rest of my time will be doing some traveling and spending time with my lovely wife Nancy, five kids and 15 grandchildren.”
New superintendent Jason Shaffer takes the reins of the Mount Ayr and Bedford school districts effective July 1.