Brittney Burns — Staff Writer

For more than three decades, Shirley Parks has walked the halls of schools in Macon County and demonstrated what it meant to dedicate your life to serving the future. After 33 years working for Macon County Schools, Parks will be retiring in July, and is ready to tackle a lifetime of bucket list items and to continue serving in different ways.

“After 33 years in the school system, I felt like it was time for me to move on, open a new chapter in my life,” said Parks. “My sisters and my girlfriends and I have a bucket list of places we want to go. One of my big ones is to visit Ireland! I have always wanted to go there! I would also like the opportunity to work with students in a different capacity, such as the Guardian ad Litem Program, REACH, or tutoring in schools.”

Parks was born and raised in Franklin, NC and was one of 10 children. She and her husband Gerald have two children, Valerie and Isaiah. Parks attended Chape School as a child, which was the predominantly black school in Macon County during segregation. After integration, Parks began her third grade year at East Franklin Elementary School, where she has served as Principal since 2011.

“One of my most memorable will be coming full circle at East Franklin School, beginning as a student during integration and becoming Principal as an adult,” said Parks. “Wow, who would have ever imagined!”

Parks has served in several capacities during her tenure in education as has served nearly every community within the district.

“Mrs. Parks has served our school system for the past 33 years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal,” said Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “She has mentored countless students and colleagues over the years. We sincerely appreciate her service and wish her the best in retirement.”

Four years after graduating from Saint Augustine’s College, Parks began her career in Macon County in 1984 as a teacher assistant for Otto Elementary School. Four years later she was hired as the Title One reading and math remediation teacher for both Otto and Union Elementary School. During the consolidation of Otto and Union Elementary School into South Macon Elementary School Parks continued to teach third grade. After two years at South Macon Elementary School, she transferred to Cartoogechaye Elementary School. In 2003 she became Lead Teacher for Cartoogchaye which later lead to Parks being appointed Principal of East Franklin Elementary School. She also did an interim Principal position for Cowee Elementary School, which she credits as a great experience to jumpstart her career as an administrator. In 2013, Parks was named Principal of the Year for Macon County.

“Mrs. Parks has been such an inspiration to me over the past four years,” said Becky Montgomery, Lead Teacher for East Franklin Elementary School. “She has taught me so many things, but most importantly to always ask myself  “what is best for the children of East Franklin School” when making important decisions. Mrs. Parks is not only my boss, but also a very close friend.  I will truly miss her.”

With her career coming to a close with the end of this school year, Parks holds on to the memories she has made and looks forward to what is to come.

“I have loved being a part of Macon County Schools and will truly miss all my friends and especially my students,” said Parks. “I will miss my East Franklin School family, I feel blessed to have worked with some amazing people. I owe God the glory for all that I have achieved and all that I have to look forward to during my new chapter in life.”