MEXICO – Ryan Casey, Alan Cayer and Bruce Jamison were busy flipping burgers at the rear of Mountain Valley Middle School on Wednesday as more than 200 employees of SAD 43 and a few school board members gathered in the auditorium to hear an end-of-school-year goodbye.

The principal, assistant principal and head custodian were appropriately dressed in white chef’s jackets with black and white trim. Nearby, Athletic Director John Bernard and Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert were helping out as the charcoal smoke floated over rooftops.

A while later, everyone lined up in the cafeteria to dig into burgers, both the meat variety and the vegetarian, cold drinks, salads and lots of sweets.

But before that, outgoing Superintendent Jim Hodgkin had a few words to say to the employees he has supervised for six years.

“Twenty years ago, you were probably having the same kind of angst,” he said, referring to the restructuring of the local educational system.

In 1989, the Rumford School Department merged with SAD 43, which was created with the towns of Mexico, Byron and Roxbury in 1965.

Now, SAD 43 is joining with nearby SAD 21 in Dixfield, SAD 39 in Buckfield and the town of Hanover to become the Western Foothills School District, also known as Regional School Unit 10, as of July 1.

“In 1989, the kids didn’t know the difference and people made the transformation,” Hodgkin said. “And I can’t tell you where things will be in 20 years. This staff is the most outstanding I’ve ever worked with. You are dedicated to the students and the communities and you support each other, whether it’s in RSU 10 or in whatever comes down the road.”

Teaching is the most important job – preparing the next generation, he said.

“You have found the right balance,” he said. “You take what you do seriously, but you are also able to laugh at yourselves.”

Retiring staff were recognized; the work of Curriculum Coordinator Gloria Jenkins was particularly honored.

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