King retires after 44 years

Jun. 12, 2013 @ 05:14 AM

After 44 years of working in education Larry King, principal of the Rutherford Opportunity Center (ROC), is retiring.

King began his career with Rutherford County Schools 11 years ago as the assistant principal of Chase Middle School. He has been the principal of the ROC for six years and said his best memories are things that occurred outside of a regular school day.

"When I meet, see or encounter former students or former parents of students, the reception is usually very cordial, grateful and encouraging. Even though I may not always remember the individual student or individual parents, it appears that they saw value in the philosophy and the climate that we, me and a supportive staff, provided for their child," King said. "Many students now are requesting the opportunity to come to this school program because of some of the testimonies and comments that they have had from peers or adults of children who have been here. Those are the kind of lasting memories I will have."

King was born into a coal-mining family in Logan County, Wv. By the age of 12, both of his parents had passed away. King and his siblings were taken in by his grandparents.

"I didn't decide to go into education. I knew I needed an opportunity to live in an occupation and livelihood that was beyond coal mining. Then the opportunity came for me to go to school because someone had not completed their requirements at Bluefield State College in West Virginia. I was asked by my guidance counselor of my graduating high school if I was interested in going to school. Before that I had no means by which to get an education," King said. "I entered college in January instead of September like most students but I was grateful for the opportunity. I was given a job and a loan and a little bitty suitcase to go off from my county to about 100 miles away to another county."

It was during his time in college that King decided he wanted to go into the education field. After graduation, he worked in Logan County for 17 years before moving to Greenville, SC.

"My family and I moved from Logan to Greenville because the coal industry was diminishing and the economic situation in West Virginia was causing a problem for the tax base for education," King said. "I knew my children were getting older and I needed to know how I could continue to educate them after high school. I needed to find a place that would allow me to continue to work and earn a living that would help support their college education."

After 15 years of being an administrator in Greenville, King and his wife moved to Rutherford County to be close to his children. He decided to pursue the position as principal at the ROC because he wanted to be engaged with students, parents and teachers.

"I knew my heart's desire was to work more directly with students. As assistant principal at Chase Middle, I had the opportunity to constantly engage with students, teachers and parents and not have to be the chief executive for the overall operation of the school," King said. "When I found that this position was going to be made available and I had some outside knowledge of the nature of the students I was going to be serving, I knew that without an assistant principal my engagement and involvement with the students, teachers and parents would still be available to me. I also knew the kind of student that I would serve needed the kind of internal help that I know I received and I could share my own personal life experience with the ones I served."

During his time at the ROC, an alternative high school, King has worked with students who have circumstances that have prevented them from succeeding at a traditional high school. He said that the most rewarding part of being the principal is seeing the students graduate.

"That's the ultimate for us when students are encouraged or aided in being able to graduate through our program whatever the difficulty for them was. Whether it was school related difficulty, community-related difficulty, home-related difficulty, young adult spousal-related difficulty or a child care issue, we want them to be assisted, guided or directed into a path that allows them to be able to complete what they had started, even though they didn't think they could, and do it with integrity," King said. "As an employee in public education, you are a public servant and a person who is a public servant needs to know your compensation is beyond the pocketbook and the bank. There are intrinsic things that are beyond the description but bring about a cheerful heart."

King said he doesn't have any specific plans for his retirement but he hopes to find a way to continue to serve the community.

"I know that after 44 years of 12 months of involvement as far as work is concerned, it's going to be different. I know there's a place to serve and that's what I've done all my life," King said. "I'm sure I'm going to continue to serve someone in addition to my family."

Tim Torvinen, current assistant principal at Chase High School, is replacing King as principal of the ROC.

"My successor has been a colleague of mine and of all the people my hope was that he would be selected," King said. "He and I have a great number of years of interaction and I felt that I would be pleased that he was selected and I'm glad he was. I told him I would work with him and assist him in any way I can."