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Austin leaves amid levity

The retirement of Superintendent Carl Austin has been a time of parting gifts and quips. Austin's final School Board meeting Tuesday was no exception:

GOING . . .: Board member Ruthann Derrico was handing out gifts Tuesday night to both Austin and his successor, Jim Hughes. For Hughes, Derrico had some chocolates, "for the stress."

Even if they didn't relieve anxiety, "at least chewing them might keep you from saying something you regret," she read off the package.

Board chairwoman Janet Herndon jumped in, "I think you ought to save that for the next meeting, Mr. Hughes."

Derrico handed Austin, an avid fisherman, a "book of excuses." They will come in handy, he was told, on those days when the fish just aren't biting.

Austin countered that, compared with his job, a day fishing without catching anything will be a breeze. "I won't be catching as much heck," he said.

GOING . . .: Later, during a board discussion, board member Mark Stone turned to Hughes and asked him to pass some information on to the policy committee.

Suddenly realizing that he had bypassed Austin, a fixture at the board meetings for the past decade, Stone quickly said, "I'd direct it to you . . . but I don't know if you could do it from your fishing boat."

GONE: Austin was clearly in retirement mode as he sailed through the six-hour final board meeting. At one point he was questioned about his attire. Specifically, why wasn't he wearing a necktie?

Austin answered that after all this time, he has earned the right to have a naked neck at his last meeting.

As the lengthy and at times contentious meeting drew to a close, he was asked for his final comments.

After wishing everyone good luck, Austin reached into the popular movie The Lion King for a quote. "Hakuna matata," he said, echoing a phrase that means "no worries."

_ Compiled by staff writer Barbara Behrendt.