After more than 20 years in school, it's finally time for recess.
And for Walt Hansen and Clarence Robison, retirement from the Provo Board of Education is well-deserved. The two men recently bid farewell to fellow board members and administrators, Hansen after 22 years and Robison after 21 years with the school district."Walt and I are most pleased," Robison said. "Never in the history of the district has it been in better hands. We'll miss it."
Both men came on board in the late 1960's when the school district faced the "hippie" era. Now the district's biggest challenge is keeping up with a changing technological world under a stringent budget.
"We have faced other financial battles, but they have been far more monumental in the past few years," Hansen said. "We've needed much greater cutbacks."
The two have spent countless hours in meetings trying to come up with solutions to each problem the district has faced in the past two decades, and according to Robison it hasn't been fun, but it has been satisfying.
"It is satisfying to change lives and influence the outcome of education," he said. "There really isn't much that is fun. Tuesday evenings get boring even though a lot is accomplished."
Through some of those lengthy meetings, year-round schools came to be, as did the district's career ladder program, the adoption of an AIDS curriculum and changing methods of teaching. Confronting the drug problem, the need for additional classroom space and new schools and changing boundaries has been also a part of the past 20-plus years.
"We have seen a lot of growth," Hansen said. "It has not been sporadic and leveled out so we have been able to plan for growth. It's a challenge."
Hansen remembers changing boundaries for the high schools when Timpview was built. It was one decision he was glad to be a part of only once.
Dealing with personnel issues was another difficult topic for Hansen. "It was not the worst thing, but it was always a test of feelings."
Robison said discipline in the schools has been a concern in past years, but now he feels "particularly good about the way discipline is handled in schools. We are doing better than we've ever done. When you walk through the schools there is order and respect."
The academic level of the average student is constantly im-proving, he said. "Teachers and administrators are doing a better job in education. It just shows what progress we've made. These are troubled years and times, but we believe through personnel much can be done."
Being at the base of the Brigham Young University hill has also been a plus for the district, Robison said. "We have had enough applicants to replace every teacher and administrator, and we've been able to be selective. We are next to one of the biggest training centers in the West for teachers, and we've been able to skim off the top."
The community is also more education-oriented as a result, he said. Education is important to people who live here, and that rubs off on children coming to schools.
Both men have worked with three superintendents and about 18 different board members, most of whom remain friends, Robison said.
"Over the years there are few exceptions," he said. "Those we served with are still good friends. There has always been a common thread of policy."
There were few times when the board was split on a decision, he added. "It's necessary to have a difference of opinion, but many times we came to unanimity after we studied it and let each person express how he felt."
Each superintendent has been different, something both Hansen and Robison say has been beneficial because in most cases the top administrators learn from each other.
Hansen said Superintendent Jim Bergera has combined a number of good qualities, making him the best superintendent in the state.
Robison agreed. "Jim is probably as good a superintendent as there is in the business. I don't think anyone is better."
"He goes to work on his curriculum goals. We've been down below the national average but have seen that come back up near the top. It is very satisfying when you see that take place."
Both say Provo School District is willing to try new things, putting it on the cutting edge of education.
Time on the school board has been exciting because of the changes, but Hansen said it is also satisfying to get involved in the community.
"We have a tendency to be critical to the way things are done and at the same time we don't want to roll up our sleeves and help," Robison said. "People take potshots - it is par for the course. Nevertheless it is satisfying to know what is going on in your student's education system."
The children of both men have attended Provo schools, and Hansen said one of the highlights as a board member has been handing diplomas to his children.
Bergera said: "Their absence will be felt by the entire staff of the school district. We think the new board members are excellent people, but experience and background is extremely important in the well-being of a district."
Hansen will retire at the end of this month from his job at Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Co.; Robison retired in September from his job as BYU track coach.