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June 29, 2014

Labyer set to resign, looks to the future

DUNCAN — Sherry Labyer is set to resign as the Duncan Schools superintendent Tuesday, but knows she’ll still remain involved in her hometown.

The Duncan Board of Education is set for a special meeting to approve Labyer’s resignation, which comes just one week after board members met with Labyer in executive session for her mid-year evaluation. In the days following, Labyer revealed to the community she had accepted a job with the State of Oklahoma to work in the Department of Accountability and Teacher Preparation.

“I’ve been so blessed to be here,” Labyer said about the Duncan community. “I’m so blessed to have this opportunity. You can’t put a price tag on it. Duncan will always be my home.

“Education is my passion. I still get to be in education. I’ll be out and about working with schools a little more.”

Labyer is a native of Duncan, graduating in the mid-1970s from Duncan High School. Although she worked for 12 years at Halliburton, Labyer first entered the classroom in 1987, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in education, taking classes in the morning and working a 2 to 10 p.m. shift at Halliburton.

After the first eight years working at Halliburton, a downturn in the oil industry gave her incentive to begin looking at her options. She chose the education field because of her love of teaching, something she got to do by training others at Halliburton.

She taught first and second grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary before moving to Plato Elementary, where she taught fifth and sixth grade. During her time at Plato, she began working toward her master’s degree in counseling, which landed her a counseling position at the Duncan Middle School.

Labyer received another master’s degree in administration, which moved her to an assistant principal position at Woodrow Wilson. She became principal of the sixth-grade center, which became the Duncan Middle School when seventh and eighth grades moved into the building.

When Nancy Leonard retired in the early 2000s, Labyer became assistant superintendent. Labyer worked toward her doctorate, receiving it in 2004. In 2005, the superintendent position opened and she was voted in by Duncan residents.

“I have been on a journey for nine years, actually I’ve been on a journey for 28 years,” Labyer said. “I have been on this path for nine years. It’s invaluable what I’ve learned about people. I’m a better person professionally, personally.”

Labyer was informed of the job opening in Oklahoma City on May 1, but the job didn’t close to resumes until May 31. While she did an interview for the job, it wasn’t until June 20 she was offered the position.

“I had served on the Office of Accountability Board for five years,” Labyer said. “My five years were up. I really enjoyed the process. I really believed in the job the agency does. I decided I would send in my resume.

“Ten days after my first interview, I got a call and was offered the job. I decided it was time for the next phase of my journey. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Labyer said she was proud of all she accomplished with the help of the Duncan Board of Education, faculty members and members of the community to make Duncan a better place to learn and to raise children.

Through her position as superintendent, Labyer has passed a bond issue to renovate the Duncan High School, which first opened in 1961. She moved toward improvements to Halliburton Stadium. Duncan Public Schools became the pilot school district for the Career Pathways program. She worked closely with the City of Champions to improve Duncan athletics.

Through the recession, tough decisions were made, including not refilling open positions. This left Duncan in good financial standings, which has continued through this fiscal year.

“We’re always looking to find ways to improve student success,” Labyer said. “Is there room for improvement? Always. People in this district are what make this district.

“We get out of the way and let people do their jobs.”

Of all her accomplishments, Labyer considers the success of her son, Matt, her greatest. Matt Labyer graduated Duncan High in 2009, and has gone on to run his own business.

She is proud to attribute his success to his education in Duncan Public Schools.

Although Labyer’s new job may be in Oklahoma City, she said her Duncan ties will always bring her back home. Her husband, Hal Labyer, will continue to work and live in the community.

She said there are too many things she loves about Duncan to disappear from the community. Among those things she loves are the people.

“Duncan will always be my home,” Labyer said.

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