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Board honors Dr. Couch

From left are board member Frank Rhodes, Dr. Couch, student board member Madison Messick, Vice President Francoise Sullivan, board member Aretha Dorsey, President Joseph Goetz and board member Trish McGee.
Retiring Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch is joined by the Kent County Board of Education at her final meeting Monday, June 10. The painting was a gift to her created by art teachers and students at Kent County High School. From left are board member Frank Rhodes, Dr. Couch, student board member Madison Messick, Vice President Francoise Sullivan, board member Aretha Dorsey, President Joseph Goetz and board member Trish McGee.

ROCK HALL — After 11 years of spending an extra-long day at the office on the second Monday of each month, Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch has attended what is expected to be her final Kent County Board of Education meeting.

Dr. Couch announced her plans to retire in January, to be effective July 1. Monday, June 10 was the last scheduled board meeting for the month.

Board members, Kent County Public Schools staff and community members all took time at the meeting to thank Dr. Couch for her dedication and devotion to students and families, teachers and staff.

Dr. Couch shared her feelings on leaving, a mixture of excitement for her retirement and moving back to her home state of New Mexico and sadness for leaving the school system here.

At her farewell board meeting, Dr. Couch spoke about how her passion for education could lead to disagreements with others, but that she sought to navigate such discussions in a respectful manner.

"It's because, always, my moral compass was set to trying to do what was right for the students, doing what was right for the staff and trying to educate the people that I talked to on why the decisions were made," she said in thanking everyone for their support.

President Joseph Goetz talked about how much he learned from Dr. Couch when he was first elected to the board nearly eight years ago and how frequently they speak.

"Coming in very green and with lots of learn, you were very kind," Goetz told Dr. Couch. "What I learned in short order is that your dedication to the students of Kent County is like nothing I have ever seen."

Goetz said that while she was an "outsider" to the community, having moved here from New Mexico, she had a vision for Kent County Public Schools.

"You stayed true to the cause," Goetz said to Dr. Couch. "You protected the students. You protected the parents. You protected the staff. You protected the school system. And for that, I can't thank you enough."

Vice President Francoise Sullivan said, like others, she did not always agree with Dr. Couch, but in working with her, she saw the dedication Dr. Couch had for education.

"You are going to be missed and all of your work is greatly appreciated," Sullivan said. "I wish you all the best."

Board member Trish McGee highlighted Dr. Couch's resolve and commitment to the school system in the face of great challenges.

"I'm going to be sad for you to leave," McGee told Couch, adding that she is excited for her to enjoy her retirement and echoing Kent County Public Schools' cheer, "KCPS: It's always a good day to be a Trojan."

Board member Aretha Dorsey spoke about how she first got to know Dr. Couch through various community groups. 

Dorsey said she appreciated even more Dr. Couch's dedication after being elected to the board and learning in greater detail the challenges of leading of a school system.  
"We understood each other and listened to each other's perspectives, and I appreciated that," Dorsey said to Dr. Couch. "Thank you for your hard work and I admire you for what you do."

Board member Frank Rhodes congratulated Dr. Couch, saying he expected her life in retirement to be wonderful.

The board presented Dr. Couch with a special gift: a painting of Kent County by Kent County High School art teachers Noel Morris and Stephanie Spencer and students Mary Jane Joiner, Katelyn Kerns, Taylor Mangels and Maurya McKenzie.

The painting was framed and the matting around it was signed by colleagues, family and friends at a career and retirement celebration held for Dr. Couch in May. The event also raised more than $2,600 for the Kent County Public Schools Education Foundation Fund.

Dr. Couch thanked the foundation for organizing the celebration. 

Among that evening's speakers were Dr. Couch's sons. Family members and friends of hers also traveled from New Mexico and Texas for the dinner.

"It was so humbling and rewarding to see everyone who was in attendance," Dr. Couch said. "My boys definitely had me crying and laughing at the same time."

As Dr. Couch retires next month, Dr. Mary Boswell-McComas was announced at the June 10 meeting as the next superintendent. Dr. McComas brings nearly 30 years' experience in education in classroom and administrative roles.

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