For 20 years, students at Nevada High School have had to make their way past Administrative Assistant Sue Morrical if they wanted in or out of the building at times other than the official start or end of the school day.
Sue has sat at the front desk for the high school office, basically serving as the gatekeeper for students, staff and the public. Answering phones, answering questions and knowing pretty much everything about what’s going on inside the school, including who’s absent and tardy each day, Sue said she has loved the variety of work that the job has involved.
“I will miss the kids and will miss the people I work with; it’s been a great place to work,” said Sue, who worked for seven years in other district offices before going into the high school office 20 years ago.
“I was at the old high school, in the junior high office first. Then I went to the new middle school in that office when the middle school opened,” she said.
She remembers when she was working at the middle school and a youngster came in late one day. “He could barely see over the counter,” she said, and she asked him why he was late. “He said it was because his clock was running backward. I tried to keep a straight face,” she said.
At the high school level, she doesn’t hear the cute excuses so much, but said she has to laugh at the way kids try to disguise their voices when calling themselves in as absent, so she’ll think it’s their parents. “Some kids don’t know me well enough to know that I know it’s not your parent calling to say you’re not going to be in school,” she said. “It’s hysterical really” that they think they can pull this on her, she said.
Working in a high school office, like any job, has times when it gets frustrating. “But then something happens to renew your faith,” she said.
Working as the school’s main gatekeeper, she has seen changes over the years too, Sue said. There are a lot more kids leaving the school during the day for other off-site classes and activities than ever before. She feels like a lot of kids have to grow up faster now, and oftentimes, many of these kids seem to be more responsible for their own needs than in the past, when parents seemed more involved in all the aspects of their child’s day, Morrical said.
Not that any of this is good or bad, but it’s changed, Sue said. And education has changed, too, with all the online course options, off-site options and different styles of grading. “Maybe it’s because of my age … but there’s such a difference now from when kids were sitting in classrooms for most of the day and staying at school until the school day ended.”
She hopes in the end, that with all the changes, kids are still getting the best education possible, because they need that.
Education has been an important component in her life. Sue earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Purdue University. Her husband, Dan, also earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue, where the two met. Dan has been a professor in the Animal Science Department at Iowa State University since 1984, when the couple moved to Nevada for his job. He also served a number of years on the Nevada School board, and was president of the board for a time. Their son, Joel, is currently an instructor for North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.
Sue used her agriculture degree while Dan was going to grad school at New Mexico State University, where the couple lived prior to coming to Nevada. Sue worked in the plant and soils lab and did soil testing for the university.
In fact, Dan retires this coming September, and the two are headed back to New Mexico to live in Las Cruces. Sue said their daughter, Melissa, lives there, where she is clinical manager of the emergency room for Memorial Medical Center. Also living in Las Cruces are many members of Sue’s family, including three sisters, a brother and her mother. Sue is, however, originally from Michigan and was raised in West LaFayette, Ind. Dan was originally from a small town in Indiana, Hartford City.
But it’s the weather and family who are in Las Cruces that make it the place for the Morricals to retire. Both Dan and Sue are avid golfers and plan to spend a lot of time year-round on the golf course. They also hope to do some traveling, much of it back to Iowa, because they will want to make visits to Joel and his wife and their three grandchildren in Clarion.
Sue thinks both she and Dan will, in addition to golfing, also look for other ways to stay busy — finding odd jobs or volunteering in some way.
The chaos that ensues at the school from spring break to graduation day has kept Sue very busy as she counts down her final days. She’s been making a list to try to help her replacement, whoever that might be, when they take over the position.
“At the very top I put that you have to have a sense of humor. You have to be flexible. And you have to remember that we were all young once. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ve got to laugh, and you have to remember, it is what it is,” she said.
She doesn’t think she’ll make it back to Nevada that often in the future, but she will always hold dear the time she’s lived here and worked in the Nevada School District. “I really love the people I’ve worked with.”