Water Oak School founders retiring after 26 years
But they say their legacy is in good hands with longtime teacher Mary Ann Rawson
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Michael Rawson (left) watches as Stan and Connie Shipp (right) hand over their chalk and school keys, along with the title to Water Oak School, to his wife, Mary Ann Rawson, on Tuesday.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

June 21, 2006 -- After 26 years, Stan and Connie Shipp have handed over their chalk and school keys, along with the title to Water Oak School.

But parents of students enrolled in the next session shouldn’t worry -- the Shipps feel confident leaving their legacy to Mary Ann Rawson, who after 10 years as a teacher has bought them out.

“After 26 years, it’s time to retire,” said Stan Shipp, who said he and his wife have not  yet taken time to consider what the next phase of their life will be. “We appreciate Sulphur Springs and the community who put their trust in us.”

“We appreciate them putting their trust in us, their trust with their children. We are very grateful for our Lord and the families of Sulphur Springs,” Connie Shipp said.

They wholeheartedly gave their endorsement to Rawson, who they feel confident will continue giving preschoolers as solid an educational foundation to build on as they have done.

“We just felt like you did a great job, and should be in charge,” Stan Shipp told Rawson. We know you will continue to have a lot to offer.”

“Mary Ann is an excellent teacher. We feel very confident in her taking over. She will continue the school as it is,” he added.

Connie called Rawson “the best teacher we’ve ever had” and “knows exactly what we do.”

Rawson concurred that she would indeed “continue teaching the same pre-K program we’ve always had in the past.” She will be adding three new teachers to the staff to help with the expanded program for 3-year-old students, which already has a waiting list. Overall, the school will continue to serve about 50 students enrolled in the 3-year-old and prekindergarten programs.

The Shipps began Water Oak school in 1980 at a “little house over on Water Oak Street” teaching eight kids whose grade level ranged up to second and third grade.

Stan Shipp had been using his degree in education from the University of North Texas to teach public schools for a number of years before becoming employed at a private school in Commerce. The idea for Water Oak was born after a Sulphur Springs student at the private school asked why they didn’t teach in Sulphur Springs. Since there was no private school here, the Shipps started their own, using Stan’s teaching knowledge and Connie’s background in business.

Enrollment at Water Oak School gradually increased, until the student population outgrew the little school house. At that point, Water Oak expanded to its current location inside the brick building housing the prekindergarten program on North Davis Street.

“It was snowing that day,” Connie Shipp recalled of the school’s move from Water Oak to Davis Street. “It was also the first Christmas snow for us. It was fun. I remember everyone came to school anyway in the new building in the snow for the Christmas party that year.”

When enrollment began to exceed the brick building, the school again expanded several years later to include the yellow school house across the street, with the preschool program located in the brick building and older students attending class in the yellow elementary school house.

About 4 years ago, the school had grown so much that the Shipps decided it was more than they felt comfortable running alone. At that point, they sold the yellow Water Oak Elementary school to then-teacher Angie Blount, who continues to run the facility.

Over the years, the Shipps have taught an innumerable number of students, including their own daughter, Caroline Shipp, and Rawson’s children, Mason and Mallory Rawson.

 Caroline just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in bilingual education. And it is her succes, that the Shipps deferred to during a luncheon ceremony and signing over of the school Tuesday. Caroline notified them just prior to the title exchange that she had just received confirmation that she has been accepted to the graduate program at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she will begin working toward a career in social work so that she can serve not only children, but help their entire families as well, according to her parents.

Mason is now a high school student, and Mallory will be entering the eighth grade.

“Both [Mason and Mallory] went here when they were 3 or 4 and have done very well from the foundation they got from the Shipps. I want to thank them for that, and hope I can continue that for other students,” Rawson said. “That they would give me their endorsement is a blessing in itself.”

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