Where Are They Now?
Some high school seniors graduate and move far away to never look back, while others make their hometown – their hometown for life. George Paden, one of the two Sand Springs Education Foundation inductees of the year 2023 is one of the only community members to have been a student, teacher, administrators, assistant superintendent and superintendent in the Sand Springs School District. Though he did move to attend Oklahoma Baptist University for his teaching degree, and Oklahoma State University for his Masters, George is a Sandite through and through.
“I was born here, raised here,[and a] product of this school district and community,” said George. He graduated from Sand Springs High School in 1957, married his sweetheart Charlotte while at OBU studying to get his teaching credentials and then in 1961 moved back to Sand Springs as a Junior High Teacher. After 2 years (the same year that president Kennedy was shot) George received a scholarship to OSU to get his masters degree in counseling and guidance. After graduating in 1964, he continued to teach in Sand Springs half a day and counsel the other half. He then went on to attend the University of Tulsa, graduating in 1970 with certifications for secondary principal and superintendent of schools. The next year he became the principal at Central Elementary, now Northwoods. In 2011 “I was really fortunate, they named the media center at Northwoods with my name,” said George. For the next seven years he made waves in the school district as the assistant principal of Charles Page High school. After these years, he made his way to the administrative offices as the assistant to the superintendent, and in 1992 he was named the superintendent of the Sand Springs School District and retired July 1st, 2000.
George’s mentor, Clyde Boyd Sr. (George’s Predecessor) is George’s biggest influence in his time in Sand Springs. “He just really had a soft spot in his heart for our family… I saw him almost every week at church. He hired me not knowing what my assignment was going to be. He really gave me lots of advantages – like the scholarship application to complete his Masters at OSU. I never knew his plan, I never knew what he saw, he just was a powerful influence both personally and professionally. He always gave wise counsel, and I always respected him.”
Over his 22 years of retirement George has spent his time in a few odd jobs, being highly involved in the Sand Springs Rotary Club, and reminiscing about his greatest passion – teaching kids! George said, “Well what do you do in retirement? Well you don’t have to take off to go to a doctor’s appointment, if you don’t finish something today you pick it up tomorrow. I’ve been really blessed.” George is still teaching Sunday School at his church and shared about his passion for the Rotary Club. “I’ve been in Rotary for over 40 years. I am honored to serve in this rotary district that we are in. We are the largest district membership wise in the United States, in this 4 state area. I was employed full time when I served as [Rotarian] governor, which included about 6 months of travel. I traveled and made visits to 78 rotary clubs in the 4 state area. Rotary for me exposed me to a dimension that I didn’t really know about myself.”
“I’ve done everything that you can do at a school, I’ve worked on maintenance crews, drove many, many, many miles of school bus routes, elementary, secondary,” said George. George said he continues to marvel at the opportunities and sustainability of his career in Sand Springs. “I encourage kids to experiment, there is no way that doing something and not succeeding in it is a failure, it just teaches you that this is not something for me. Someone told me a long time ago that it’s better to be prepared for a job that you never would have an opportunity to do, then to have an opportunity come your way and not be prepared.”
We can learn so much from George Paden and his many years of experience and passion for the Sand Springs community. Thank you for all that you have done and will do for our wonderful community Mr. Paden! Next time you see Mr. Paden, make sure you shake his hand and spark up a conversation – I guarantee you he has a few stories to tell!
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