A ‘Hartley hero' retires after 34 years at the school

Pam McCawley retired on Tuesday after 34 years at Hartley Elementary School, most of them as executive secretary. Her desk on her last day was cluttered with flowers and gifts and cards. Paper chains hung from the ceiling, each link with the name of a student or staff member, some of them with messages of love and appreciation. Paper hearts were stuck to the window next to her desk and written on them were words her colleagues used to describe her - kind, awesome, dedicated, smart, important.

She had kept her emotions in check for most of the day but as dismissal neared, the significance of the moment finally caught up to her and office mate Paula Carlson. Tears filled their eyes.

“This would be a lot easier if people here weren’t so nice,” McCawley said.

Her colleagues heaped praise on the woman who had become a Hartley institution.

“Families have stayed connected to Hartley because of Pam. Staff have what they need and are taken care of because of Pam. Students can feel Hartley is a great place to be because of Pam,” said instructional coach Emily Sheldon, who attended Hartley as a student and still remembers how McCawley made the main office such a warm and welcoming place.

Principal Jeff Rust said McCawley is a “Hartley hero forever.”

“Over the past 34 years, Pam has been a part of the Hartley culture and has impacted the lives of many students, staff and families. She will be remembered as someone who loved her job every day, treated others with dignity and respect, and served the Hartley community with pride.  Many years of historical knowledge leaves with Pam and you cannot replace that,” he said.

As McCawley left the building on Wednesday, staff and family members surprised her by lining the sidewalk, shaking pom poms, rattling bells and cheering her on. As she reached the parking lot, there was a boisterous, “Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray!” This time she didn’t bother trying to stifle the tears.

“All the staff, the kids - it’s a very caring community,” she said. “It’s been a fun ride.”

Published: December 23, 2020, Updated: January 6, 2021