Ray retiring as Russellville superintendent
Jonathan Willis and Kim West
When school resumes for the second semester this year, the Russellville City Schools system will be without a familiar face.
Superintendent Dr. Wayne Ray announced during an emotional board meeting Thursday afternoon that he would be retiring effective Dec. 19. after 43 1/2 years working in the Russellville system.
"It's the only system I've ever worked in," said Ray, whose wife, Lela, spent 35 years as a teacher in Russellville.
"We've never been anywhere else and I can't imagine it any other way."
Ray spent 38 1/2 years in administration ranging in job titles from assistant principal at the high school to superintendent for the last eight years of his career.
He was principal at the high school from 1977 to 1993.
Ray, a Hackleburg native, came to Russellville as a student teacher while at Florence State Teachers College. Though he was new to the system, he had a good idea of what to expect.
His brother, Pete Ray, served as head football coach of the Golden Tigers from 1952-1960.
"I knew a lot about Russellville because of my brother," said Ray, who also served as head football coach for two years. "This was a special place to me even before I came here to work."
Ray later worked as assistant superintendent with Dr. Robert Clemmons before being named superintendent in 2000.
He was named the state's Superintendent of the Year in 2007.
"It's been a great journey," he said. "I have been blessed to work in the Russellville system for as long as I have."
"I have eight grandkids who are growing up and playing ball," Ray said. "If I don't take time now and let it pass, I won't ever get this time back.
"It's just the right time to do this."
Muscle Shoals Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wooten worked with Ray for several years as a teacher and later as principal of the high school.
"He can't be replaced," Wooten said. "He has dedicated his life to the school and the community. He's a fine administrator, but he's an even finer person."
Don Cox, an assistant to the superintendent, spoke on behalf of the city school system staff during the board meeting about Ray's impact.
"I've never known anyone who has loved his job more than Dr. Ray," said Cox, who has worked with Ray for nearly 29 years. "He truly has dedicated his life to our schools and school system and we will miss him dearly. He has affected us personally and professionally, and he's done everything you can in education. "He has not only been our boss but also our mentor, a man of great wisdom and our friend."
Greg Trapp, school board president, said the board has a difficult task in replacing Ray.
"We found out last night at the (budget) meeting, and it took the wind out of us a little bit," Trapp said. "You can't replace 43 ? years and the love he's had for our school system. Dr. Tim Bishop always says, 'It's great to be a Golden Tiger,' and (he'll) always be one to us."