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Instead of jumping out of bed this morning (Wednesday) and rushing to work, Pat Skebeck will be sitting on her porch in her pajamas drinking a cup of coffee.

After 30 years of serving students in Harford County, including 390 school board meetings and work sessions, and 32 years total in education, Skebeck plans to spend her first day of retirement relaxing without the worry of setting an alarm clock or getting to work on time.

“I have been on the move for a lot of years,” she said. “I’m ready to do something different and relax a little bit. I guess I will always miss the opportunity to have an influence on what happens to kids, but I have had my opportunity to do that.”

Skebeck, 66, has been looking forward to her last day of work since she announced her intentions to retire one year ago and she has been reminded of her last day of work since she was given a retirement countdown clock for her desk.

But her last few months of the job changed dramatically in late December when her boss, superintendent Jacqueline Haas, suffered a fatal asthma attack at her home. The school board asked Skebeck to become interim superintendent, pledging to find a permanent replacement for Dr. Haas in time for Skebeck to retire as she planned. The board hired Robert Tomback from Baltimore County Public Schools, and the new superintendent takes over Wednesday.

Though she’s retiring, Skebeck won’t be going far away.

“I will always be available if the school system needs me,” she said. “I am not planning on moving. I have no plans to go to work for anyone at this time.”

“She stepped up at a time when we needed someone who could bring a sense of calm to the school system, and she was that person,” Patrick Hess, president of the school board, said of Skebeck. “She was a good leader for the school and she really cared about the kids.”

Tomback, the incoming superintendent, has been shadowing Skebeck a few days a week for the last two weeks.

“We have had some good opportunity to have discussion and show him procedures,” Skebeck said. “He asked a lot of questions.”

As Skebeck turns the welfare of Harford’s 39,000 students over to Tomback, she has two pieces of advice for him: learn the culture of Harford County and find some time for family.

“Take time to learn the traditions and values that Harford County has,” she said. “Find some time in a very busy schedule for your family. It’s very easy to have this job consume you and you don’t want to miss those special moments with your family.”

Skebeck retires as the interim superintendent with a salary of $190,000, which is $51,000 more than the $139,000 she was making as executive director of elementary education.

Skebeck’s total of 32 years in education began in 1964 in Baltimore County, where she taught for two years.

After taking 14 years off to raise her three children, Skebeck moved to Harford County Public Schools to teach third grade at Hillsdale Elementary School before accepting a position as a teaching assistant principal at Meadowvale Elementary School in 1987.

Skebeck moved to a non-teaching assistant principal placement at Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in 1989.

In 1990, she became principal of Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary School until 1996, when she transferred to William Paca-Old Post Road Elementary School, before becoming executive director of elementary education.

With her job behind her, Skebeck’s focus is going to be on her three daughters and four grandchildren.

Skebeck and her late husband, Archie, who was also an educator and passed away in 1993, have three daughters together — Lisa Brown, Lori Mitchell and Julie Allen.

Brown, 42, works in the medical office at St. Joseph Hospital in Towson.

Mitchell, 38, who was recently appointed to secondary assistant principal at Patterson Mill Middle and High School, has two children, Katie, 14, and Ross, 12.

Allen, 36, who is a middle school teacher in Virginia, also has two children, Nathan, 9, and Noah, 5.

“I enjoy getting out there and watching my grandchildren play sports,” Skebeck said. “That’s really my focus.”

As a passionate Baltimore Ravens’ fan, Skebeck said she is looking forward to taking her grandchildren to the Raven’s training camp this summer for the first time.

Even though the football season is still months away, Skebeck is already excited to be able to watch Monday Night Football without the interruption of a school board meeting every now and then.

“This is going to open my Monday nights up,” she said. The school board holds most its meetings on Mondays.

Skebeck attended her last board of education meeting June 22 and during her final superintendent’s report, she took the time to thank all of the people she has worked with over the years.

“Each of you has a special place in my heart,” she said at the board meeting. “I will miss the people, but not the work. Thank you everyone for giving me a wonderful experience.”

Skebeck said there has not been one person she has worked with that she hasn’t taken something from to help mold her into the person she is today.

“I learned so much with each person I worked with,” she said in an interview Friday. “I am very grateful for the school system allowing me to work here all of these years.”

Just as Skebeck is going to miss her coworkers, her coworkers are certainly going to miss her.

Dave Volrath, who has worked beside Skebeck for seven years as the executive director of secondary education, said Skebeck was a great friend and counselor.

“Pat and I have two of the most unusual jobs in the school system in that we deal with all of the schools and all of the principals and eventually all of the people and we are a department of two,” he said. “We have coexisted as best buddies for the last seven to eight years because our work is so different from everyone else’s.”

Volrath said Skebeck has a simple leadership style of listening, thinking things through clearly and doing what is right, which he said is invaluable.

“Her experience and time will be greatly missed, as well as her friendship,” he said.

Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications with the school system, was also touched by Skebeck’s leadership and personality.

“Pat Skebeck has always been the calming voice of reason and unending wisdom for those of us who have had the pleasure to work with her,” Kranefeld said. “I have personally learned a tremendous amount from Mrs. Skebeck about what it takes to become successful professionally, but more importantly, how to be the best wife and mother while pursuing a demanding career.”


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