A promise kept;Day care’s Shirley White to retire after 26 years there

BURLON WILKERSON

news@dibollfreepress.com

After 26 years at Katherine Sage Temple Day Care and 42 years overall in the child care field, Shirley White is bringing her career to a close. She will be honored with a retirement celebration at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Lottie and Arthur Temple Civic Center.

White’s experience includes stints as a classroom teacher, bus driver, kitchen helper, and child care center director. Before becoming director of KST, she served as director of four different centers in the Humble/Houston area. She was once the regional director over 10 centers, but said she much preferred to work at the local level.

“I think this kind of work is really a calling,” White said. “I guess my favorite age group over the years has been the four and five year olds.”

KST is into its “second generation” where adults who came through the day care as children are now bringing their own children to the facility. White said the parents often remember caretakers from their childhood, many of whom are still KST employees. She tells the adults that the care is still the same—the staff’s primary concern is the safety and welfare of the kids.

“We’ve worked with abused kids and special-needs kids along with all the others,” White said. “Everybody gets the same care, regardless. We don’t make any distinction because of a parent’s identity or position.”

White mentioned the names of some who are now adults and were once KST kids. Lyndsey Syler is a veterinarian in Lufkin; one of the Sikes brothers is in a TV series about the Trinity Police Department; and Jermichael Finley plays professional football.

“When Kim Caldwell brought her child in, it was like de`ja` vu,” said White.

Another student, December Simmons, had a severe allergy to peanuts, so White had a standing order from December’s mother to administer medicine anytime she had an allergic reaction. After the child was in public school, her mother called White one day asking her to go to the school to give medication because she herself was unable to do it. White complied just as if December were still one of “her” kids. Simmons now has children of her own at KST.

White also has served as a sounding board and a counselor of sorts for parents. She recalled a time when a mother expressed concern because her daughter had told her on the way home that she hated her. White advised her to remember that the child was 5 years old and to tell her she was sorry to hear it, but she loved her just like she always had and then to keep driving as if nothing had happened.

Although the care has remained the same, there have been some changes over the years. The most obvious are the increased size of the facility and the improved playground area.

“Diboll itself has changed, especially since Arthur Temple has been gone,” White said. “He always promoted a sense of community that is not easy to maintain by those who haven’t been here since the beginning. But the Temple Foundation has been great, and we’ve always had a board of directors for the day care that has been favorable to getting things done.”

White said she has enjoyed working with a really great staff. During her career she has found some who have wanted to be in the child care field, and many of them are still involved in it. She has always encouraged her workers to further their education and has had some to go on to become teachers. Chasity Archer will take her place as director at KST after working there since high school graduation.

“I’m very appreciative of the people who have helped out,” White said. “Retiring is going to be like leaving family. I always thought I would probably be here until I died, but cancer has slowed me down and I can’t be as effective as I want to be, so I feel that I need to step down.”

She plans to do a little sewing and spend time with her children. Her daughters live in the Kingwood area, so they can chauffer her on her trips to MD Anderson.

“One time when we applied for some upgrades, Lottie Temple asked me if I would promise to stay if they were approved. I guess after more than 25 years, you could say I’ve kept my promise,” White said with a chuckle.