Former school chief likes retirement

Milford Mason retired from his post as Clarkston’s superintendent of schools in 1988.
He hasn’t slowed down, however, even at age 73.
‘I don’t know what I do, but I sure keep busy,? he quipped.
With his wife, Joan, he still lives in the Clarkston area ? about half the year. The other half is spent in what some might call ‘Clarkston South,? otherwise known as Bradenton, Fla.
‘Around the first of October I look forward to getting away, then around the middle of April I look forward to getting back here,? he said.
Mason began his 36 years of service in public education as a junior high school teacher in Charlotte (southwest of Lansing). In Vermontville, he was a high school teacher half the day and elementary school principal the other half (and he drove a school bus for two years to supplement his income).
Eventually, he became principal of Clarkston High School before being promoted to central administration. Mason has fond memories of the staff and students with whom he worked, and he can engage in a bit of name dropping concerning former colleagues involved in business and government.
‘I still see a lot of them around the community,? he said.
Does he miss working?
‘Not now,? he said. ‘It used to be, on Sunday evening, mentally I’d think, ‘What do I have lined up for Monday morning?? I had a little bit of a problem getting out of that routine [at first]. I enjoyed what I was doing, and I enjoyed the job, [but] when I retired, I enjoyed that.
‘I miss the people,? he admitted, ‘and interacting with people.?
When he retired, there was speculation that the Masons would spend lots of time in northern Michigan. They didn’t expect to be Florida bound, and they didn’t expect to be surrounded by transplanted friends and neighbors. He has a theory about how it is now an annual tradition to have a ‘Clarkston reunion? in Bradenton.
‘You know someone and you go down to visit, then as a result of the visit, ultimately you evolve into getting a place down there yourself,? he said. ‘I think just about everyone we know [there] has a connection.?
The Masons enjoy an active, but leisurely pace. While here, they participate in events sponsored by the Independence Township Senior Citizens Center, and both here and in Florida, it seems there’s always someone to visit.
‘Seems like you’re driving off to see somebody or somebody’s coming to see you.? Other than that, they live by the philosophy of ‘whatever comes along.?
‘I like to putter around and do a lot of projects,? he said, and he and Joan joke about whose list of projects takes priority.
Those projects include a courtyard garden at their Independence Township condominium, and he enjoys using the computer to read a variety of newspapers and keep in touch with family and friends via e-mail
‘My biggest hobby is working with the computer and trying to understand it and all its functions,? he said. ‘I see it as kind of a challenge.?
Wife Joan keeps busy with her artistic talent. Her sketch of the original Clarkston State Bank building was chosen for the cover of the company’s annual report, and there are a number of her works on display in their home.
Approaching their 53rd wedding anniversary, the Masons also work out three times a week.
‘We think it’s good for us,? he said.
Family is important, and four children and seven grandchildren are a regular part of the schedule. Recently it was learned that a third generation of the Mason family will be working in public education.
While the granddaughter’s announcement was welcome, it was a daughter’s decision that came as a surprise.
‘Our daughter swore she would never end up in education, having watched me as high school principal,? Mason said. ‘Lo and behold, she started volunteering with her own children,? and she decided to change her career plans.
It’s natural to reflect on changing times and changes in the community. Mason thinks of two easy ways to measure the difference.
‘When I first worked here, there were two stop lights in the whole Independence Township,? is the first. The second: ‘It used to be I could walk down Main Street and say hello to just about every other person, or they’d say hello.?
‘There was no fast food,? his wife said.
Mason admits that the growth is understandable, and so are some of the changes in local lifestyle. He thinks there is something missing in today’s urban sprawl.
‘I know you can’t go back, but things were quite personal,? he said. ‘It almost seems more impersonal today. Maybe that’s unfair, but it seems that way.?
He is an admitted outsider when it comes to matters educational, but he doesn’t mind making observations about the differences ? and similarities ? in the challenges faced by public schools.
He remembers funding struggles in the 1980s, attempts to make transportation and food service more efficient, and he remembers the beginning of collective bargaining for school employees. Some of those challenges still exist, but in a different form.
‘You can read history, and it repeats itself,? he said. ‘I still think Proposal A stood by the taxpayer quite well. Granted, there are some difficulties, but is there a perfect system??
With those memories, however, comes recognition of new challenges for today’s schools, especially in the area of expanded expectations.
‘You could count on the parents to help you and to take on the role they were there for,? and he really enjoyed interacting with parents when he was high school principal. ‘The demands on us to be everything weren’t as much a part of the scene as they are today.?
Mason admits that he doesn’t know all the details of new programs such as No Child Left Behind and Education YES, but he observed simply: ‘We’ve had mandates over the years.?
While time has changed some things, he believes one thing has not changed ? the importance of voter involvement in school leadership.
‘I don’t know if citizens really realize how critical and important it is to research and do some homework on who’s running and who they may vote for,? he said.
Mason continues to keep active in mind and body, and it doesn’t look like he will stop anytime soon. He seems content with his life, however.
‘Most of the objectives I set out there, I’ve either come close or have done,? he said. ‘If I were to live my life over again, I’d travel the same way.?