Two longtime staffers retire from Glenholme

Two staff members at Glenholme School in Washington will retire early this month.

Sharon Murphy, the education director, and Judy Cooper, the assistant executive director, will retire after 38 and 40 years, respectively.

The Glenholme School is a co-ed therapeutic residential and day school for students 10 to 21 years old who have social, emotional and learning challenges.

Murphy always knew she wanted to be a principal. Coming from a long line of teachers, Murphy started as a teacher at the Glenholme School right out of college. Within two years she was the education coordinator and became the principal after five years.

The school has been in existence since 1968. The current population is comprised of students with learning difficulties. Most of the students are fragile and have overlapping issues such as high functioning autism and mood disorders like depression or anxiety. When Murphy started, the school had more aggressive youngsters.

Murphy has championed many of the changes at the school. Glenholme only went until eighth grade when Murphy started. By 2004, the school went through high school, and was granted the ability to issue diplomas.

In the early 1990s, a culture of character education began, providing an explicit and focused look at character-based values. This has continued through today, with the school’s five core values: honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect and kindness.

When asked what she would miss most,. Murphy said she would not miss the worrying. She is looking forward to having more time for reading, painting and home projects.

When the pandemic subsides, she will travel cross country, go camping, and find volunteer opportunities, so she can “give back,” she said.

Cooper applied to work at the school in the food service program. While waiting for her interview, she was intercepted by another school administrator who hired her instead to work part time directly with the children.

As luck would have it for the school, Cooper enjoyed the work. She moved to full time and became the school’s first female evening supervisor.

Through the years, she has worked in nearly every capacity, including dean of students, human resources, quality assurance and eventually executive assistant director.

When asked how one stays motivated for so long, she said, “You have to keep trying to invent new things. Keep stretching and keep continuing to build on the programs.”

She took her own advice. When she first came to the school, she had not finished college. As her career ensued, she returned to school and got a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in organizational management.

Cooper’s greatest accomplishment during her tenure was transforming the boarding program from a benevolent baby-sitting program to make it more purposeful.

There are now weekly residential curriculums, with goals for the students in different social skills. This continues to evolve.

Cooper recounted her times of fun at the school where staff members banded together in off hours to decompress. Zany pranks were played on each other in youthful exuberance.

Cooper said she plans to spend the first couple months of her retirement decompressing and reflecting on what was important and what brought her the most peace. After the pandemic, she hopes to travel and get involved as a volunteer.