Dr. David Eubanks knew that.
He had options after receiving his masters degree in 1972 from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The Cowpens native could have taken a job with a company headquartered in the United States.
“I really had a tough time deciding which way to go,” he said.
The job he was offered would have required him to move around quite a bit — something he wasn’t too keen about.
“I enjoy working with young people,” Eubanks said. “Particularly middle school aged kids.”
Plus, his wife Maralyce was a teacher.
So he knew which way to go.
“I really thought teaching was what I wanted to do,” Eubanks said.
That was 38 years ago and he’s still teaching — in one respect or another — as the interim superintendent for the Union County School District. Eubanks, however, will officially retire following the 2009-10 school year after coming out of retirement for a second time to serve the Union County district.
Eubanks spent four years in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from the Citadel in 1968. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was a certified aeronautical engineer by the time his four years was up.
“That’s something not many people know,” he said.
It was during his time in the military — stationed at Air Combat Command at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix — he decided to attend Arizona State to pursue his masters degree.
“I thought, ‘Well, since I’m here, Arizona State is right down the road,’” Eubanks said.
He also did a lot of volunteer work while serving in the air force and even met his wife — a native of Phoenix — while going to school. Eubanks resigned his commission in June 1972, leaving active duty as a captain, and came back to South Carolina.
He and his wife now only live about 30 minutes away from Union.
Eubanks began his teaching career at his alma mater — Cowpens High School — as a science and history teacher. Eubanks was doing what he wanted to do and becoming a part of a school’s administration was perhaps the farthest thing from his thoughts.
“It’s not something I aspired to do early on in my career,” he said. “It just happened that when I started to work, I already had my masters.”
As fate would have it, Eubanks wouldn’t even have to apply to be management. His first administrative position was the direct result of a request from upper management.
When his superintendent at the time came to him and said there was something he would like him to do — namely take on the position of assistant principal at Pacolet Middle School — he agreed. Eubanks held that job for two years.
He continued to work his way up the management ladder — next becoming the principal in Pacolet, then serving as the principal at Pacolet Junior High and then as principal at Broome High School where he stayed for five years.
Eubanks’ next step up was becoming the assistant superintendent for the Spartanburg School District Three. He was in that position for another five years until 1987 when he reached the top and became superintendent for the Spartanburg School District Six, from which he retired in 2002.
He even taught a graduate class at Furman University for a short period during his career.
Eubanks looked at management through the eyes of the military.
“I really think a lot of my philosophies on management and leadership come from my experience in the military,” he said, adding the U.S. military is one of the best managed operations around.
Eubanks also looked at his working as an administrator as a way to reach even more students. He said it’s one thing to be in a classroom and impacting only the students in that classroom — as an administrator, however, decisions he makes impact a large number of teachers and therefore impact an even larger number of students in the district.
He also enjoys the leadership role administrators play in school districts.
It was leadership the Union County School District needed from July to December 2002 and it asked Eubanks to step in and offer that for those six months as interim superintendent.
That was his first time coming to work for the Union County district out of retirement.
Then he got a phone call in 2007 from then chairman of the school district board of trustees Manning Jeter asking him if he would come down and speak with the full board of trustees about possibly coming back to the Union County district to take the helm following the resignation of former superintendent Dr. Thomas White Jr.
He gladly accepted and said he told the district after his first six months of helping out if it needed anything and someone called him he would be more than happy to help. He also was somewhat flattered at being the man the board called in.
“I thought it was a real nice compliment to be asked to come back again,” Eubanks said. “It was something I really wanted to do because I value the people in Union County.”
There were several issues on the table the district needed someone with experience and expertise to guide it through at the time, including the consolidation of three high schools — a touchy issue throughout Union County.
Eubanks said the district didn’t know what all the issue were when it came to consolidating the three schools but they all had to be addressed.
“As an administrator, I knew we had to be very careful in dealing with it because of the fragile nature of bringing three schools together,” Eubanks said.
It was part of his job to make sure the process went smoothly and, in the end, everything went according to plan.
“As it turned out, most parents were very cooperative and wanted the best for their kids,” Eubanks said.
The departing interim superintendent also was instrumental in getting two new school buildings constructed — Sims Middle School in Union and Jonesville Elementary and Middle School in Jonesville. He said the time line to do the projects was short, but it was one the district felt there were no other options and had to be done within a certain period of time.
Eubanks added it was probably the best time to do the projects because of the financial situation the district has found itself in today. If it had waited, those two buildings would have been even more difficult to build.
He’s seen the district through some of those financial issues as well and said, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the economic downturn the district — and the state — are in is over.
Despite his willingness to come back to Union County to serve as interim superintendent, the soon-to-be 64 year old is looking forward to finally being able to retire.
The school board recently named its three finalists for the superintendent’s position and hopes to make a decision on who will lead the district in the future soon. Eubanks said he will stay on as long as the board needs him to and to help in the transition period once a new superintendent arrives.
Retirement, however, will be a welcomed change of pace.
“I look forward to having a clear mind and being able to enjoy the things I like to enjoy,” Eubanks said, adding as superintendent of schools it’s hard to go home at night and not think about work.
His retirement will allow him to “get the cobwebs out” and do more of the things he and his wife enjoy like gardening, working in their yard, reading and cooking.
As the school year wanes and his last day on the job beckons, Eubanks also had time to reflect on what his experience has taught him and how the last 38 years in the education field has impacted his life.
“I’ve learned in life, there’s very seldom a time you’re not learning,” Eubanks said, adding so often people think education has a beginning and an end.
He’s come to believe that’s not the case — education involves more than just what’s in textbooks and classrooms.
Eubanks said that school districts sometimes receives criticism for spending money on programs like marching band or athletics, but it’s in those programs students learn some of the most valuable lessons of leadership and how to work with others.
He’s leaving the district to go into the next phase of his life, but he wants people to know that education is a lifelong journey and it’s about more than just going to class.
“We sometimes fail to realize the most important aspects of learning are those things not found in a textbook — just dealing with people,” Eubanks said.