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Working in the School Office
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
Eleanor Partridge

When I was asked to speak at the History Club, my first reaction was, Oh no, not me.  As I asked for some time to think about it, I started reminiscing about my years at the school and all the people who have impacted my life, when a Bible verse came to mind from II Chronicles 28:20 where David said to Solomon, Be strong and courageous and do it.  That once again knocked me out of my comfort zone and here I am.  I hope you will bear with me for a few minutes as I think back over the 37 wonderful years I spent as Secretary to the Superintendent of Annandale Schools 1960 to 1997. 

I grew up in South Haven in the 1940s as a preachers kid.  My dad, Rev. James Rutgers, was the pastor of the South Haven church from 1943 to 1953.  I graduated from Annandale High School, went to college in Chicago and Iowa, worked as a parish worker in Elkhart, Indiana, and then back to the college in Iowa as secretary to the Dean of the College. I came back to Minnesota to marry my friend, Payson Partridge, on September 6, 1958, became a farmers wife, and raised a family of four wonderful sons, Joel, Brian, Gary and Ron.  This year we are celebrating 40 years of marriage. 

Lets go back to 1960.  It was a big surprise, and far from my plans of an outside job, when a member of the school board approached me with the position of Secretary to the Superintendent at the Annandale Schools.  I was hired by Supt. E. E. Anderson in August 1960 at $50 a week ($1.25 an hour).  It was the start of a wonderful and fulfilling career.  Neva Peterson was hired later to do the books, and we worked together a number of enjoyable years. 

My office was in the 1922 school building (now the Middle School) on the second floor in the Superintendents office.  My first desk was the long table used by the school board (Mrs. Clark was still in the secretarys office).  From there we moved to this building (now the city offices) and then over to Bendix Elementary when that school was built in 1971.  It did not take long for Bendix to be full, and for many years talk was to move us out.  It continued to get ruled out as not financially prudent.  We almost moved to the second floor of the now middle school; the carpet was down, the doors ordered but it did not happen.  Then we almost went to the little house next to M & M Bus Servicenot ideal, but it was a possibility.  After all, they needed us out of Bendix.  But once again, no go.  So when plans began for remodeling the old industrial arts area in the now middle school, I was pretty skeptical.  I was perfectly happy at Bendix.  But, as you know, we did move to the middle school into a beautiful, convenient, modern office complex housing the Superintendent, Business Manager, Payroll, Middle School Principal, Counselor, Nurse, Psychologist and conference room.   We spent the summer in the home economics suite with no air conditioning and working out of boxes.  We eventually got into the beautiful complex where I spent a number of enjoyable years. 

I hoped I would know when the time for retirement was right, which turned out to be during the summer of 1997.  At the end of the summer my husband had medical problems, and I needed to be home with him.  Fortunately, everything was in place.  A new person had been hired, and I was able to be home.  The Lord does direct our lives. 

The story of my career is summed up in the word change.  Change is good.  There is never time for boredom, and there is always a new challenge.  There was always something fresh, especially in our daily contact with people.  Every day was a new challenge. 

When I started in 1960 there was only one building and two secretaries.  Principals did not have secretaries, so I spent some of my time in the high school office.  At that time there were about 900 students and approximately 50 employees including teachers, cooks, and janitors.  In 1998 there are three buildings (Bendix Elementary, the high school, and the middle school), almost 2,000 students, more than 260 employees, and 3or 4 secretaries in each school.  In addition there is the Community Ed Early Childhood program and building, which continues to grow. 

As secretary, I started with a manual typewriter and mimeograph machine, moving on to the electric typewriter with correction, with memory, and more memory.  The mimeographs graduated to various types of copy machines and printing machines.  We presently have about 15 copy machines in the three buildings.  Besides the computers we also have fax machines, laser printers, and more.  The difficult part was the time to learn the new equipment and feel comfortable with it. Eventually we wondered how we ever got along without it.  As secretary in an office, there is no end of jobs to be done.  The lunch ticket program was my biggest time-consuming job through the years.  I spent hours and hours keeping track of tickets, stapling tickets, counting money, reporting to the state, completing applications for free and reduced price lunches, and dealing with parents.   The big change came in 1996 when the lunch program became automated and everything went on computer.  A person was hired to take care of the lunch program.  Instead of tickets, every family has an account number as they go through the lunch line.  No more lost tickets, no more students selling their tickets for cash, and no more tickets lost in the family washing machines.  Needless to say, I did enjoy that part of my job!  The entire education program continues to change, which affects all of us. 

School board elections and bond issues were always a challenge as they underwent change.  In the early years, Neva and I would be the judges.  We would type up ballots, and everything was simple.   Now we have a whole book of rules and regulations to follow.  Nothing seemed to stay the same two years in a row.  Timelines were very important.  If one timeline was missed, the whole election could be canceled.  There were more anxious hours at election time.  I worked with a number of bond elections for the new Bendix Elementary (opened fall 1971), new Annandale High School (opened fall 1991), additions, and athletic fields, and of course, the yearly school board elections.  This coming year will be another change when the school board elections will be in November at the general elections rather than in May.  On May 10, 1998, there will be an election on the auditorium and track bond issue. Be sure to vote. 

Another very big part of my job and a big change I saw was when we went on the Minnesota Universal Financial Accounting & Reporting System (better known as UFARS ) with the17 digit number for each item in accounts payable and accounts receivable.  It soon became imperative that we have more financial help with the latest in computers, and a business manager was hired (Mark Casey).  Today our business manager is my daughter-in-law, Tara, whom I have enjoyed working with for the past five years. 

Computers were by far the biggest challenge I have faced.   With on-the-job training and trial and error, it did get better.  It seemed to be a continual change in the computer world.  Since the office was in the process of another change in 1997, it was a good time for me to consider a change.  

Telephone technology has also changed by leaps and bounds.  One can hardly find a human to  talk with when dealing with vendors and companies.  Instead of just three telephones, we have a phone in every room, plus voice mail and e-mail. 

A very important part of my work involved contact with people -- teachers, students, parents, and salespeople.  It was a privilege to be a friend, lend an ear, give a smile, or soften a hostile attitude.  Everything was not always right, and over the years there were more and more hurting kids and hurting parents. 

I really appreciated each of the seven superintendents I worked with: 

They were all very professional men with a strong commitment to education, and all with different strengths and personalities.  My position was a commitment to excellence, to support the superintendent in every way, and create a cordial and smooth-running office as much as possible, intervening in situations and problems as necessary. 

I have also appreciated the others I worked with in the office Neva, Alice, Mark, Scott, Bonnie, Julie and Tara who made work fun and enjoyable, and yes, maybe once in a while bearable. 

I am also grateful to my husband who was a wonderful Mr. Mom before it was popular.  My sons had a special bond with their dad.  He worked a night shift, so we had changing of the guard at 4:30 p.m. 

It has been a rewarding career.  So many people have impacted my life over the years.  The motivating factor in my life is found in I Corinthians 15:58 Be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  The Lord has been good to me.  I am grateful for the contentment in life that comes from a personal relationship with Christ, which makes life worth living, helps smooth the way, and helps us see the good in everything and everybody. 

Thanks for the memories. I am now in a new era of my life enjoying grandchildren, volunteering, traveling, and living each day in thankfulness for what we have.  Yes, just more history in the making.  Thank you!