Gadsden County School Superintendent Roger Milton, board members and journalists took a ride around the district last Thursday morning, January 12th to surprise teachers, rookies and school-related employees with recognitions to show that they had been selected as the best in their category for this school year.
School-Related Employee of the Year Maggie Conyers of West Gadsden High School, who is the receptionist at the school, said: "The kids of Gadsden County Schools are the best! We can make it even better!" She thanked Superintendent Milton and the School Board members for the honor, flowers and envelope of appreciation.
Christopher Alford of Havana Magnet School is the Rookie Teacher of the Year. He said in his thank-you remarks, "Kids are why I do this. They put in a lot of hard work." Alford is in his third year as 7th grade math teacher. "Seeing kids throughout the year - that's what makes it worth it!" Alford also received flowers and an envelope of appreciation.
Last stop of the day was at James A. Shanks Middle School to give recognition, flowers and an envelope of appreciation to Judith Mandela, who teaches Algebra I, Intermediate Math III and Pre-Algebra. "This is quite an honor! Great things are coming for Gadsden. The students are doing great things. I look forward to representing the teachers and students (at the finals)," she said.
Mandela's Principal is Juanita Ellis, who had been teaching for 10 years at Shanks both in 7th and 8th grade Algebra. She's proud to say she was hired by Roselyn Smith. "I'm very proud of our teacher. The students are performing very well. I'll be (at the finals) rooting and cheering. For her to be selected is an honor for her and for us," said Ellis. Ellis said she's been a middle school teacher for 30 years, some 8-9 years past retirement.
Superintendent Roger Milton said of the day: "Thank you for attending. Everything you do on a day-to-day basis to work together, I appreciate each and every one of you."
Milton gave a glimpse to the teachers and staff who rode the bus with board members of what might be coming soon related to school reconfiguration plans. "We have good leadership, good management, staff will be happy. I want to bring exciting things and allow staff to express themselves. You are my teammates. The board and I are looking at a timeline to initiate potential re-alignments and or closures of schools. We are still doing some tweaking. We are looking at August 2017 to close West Gadsden High School. We need to make a decision by February. We would have to adjust hours (but would have) better academics, athletics. It's a financial challenge with two high schools with small student populations. We are not advocating any layoffs," said the superintendent.
"I've been on the school board for 16 years. These schools have aged. To update and maintain the difference will cost a lot of money. 80% of our budget goes to that.
The number of kids have declined; we're looking to combine schools if possible, with one high school - combine WGHS's 251 students with EGHS's 790 students," said Milton.