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Retiring educators thanked Monday

Educators and support staff who are retiring at the end of this school year were thanked Monday evening during a banquet at the new Bainbridge High School cafeteria.

In particular, Superintendent of School Ralph Jones was especially highlighted for his 36 years as a teacher, coach and then administrator. Jones said he is retiring effective June 30, and the Decatur County Board of Education held a special called meetings Tuesday evening to continue its search for his replacement.

Jones was poked fun at for first being a coach and then trying to lead the more than 850 teachers and staff employed with the Department of Education and the more than 5,600 students, but his “people skills” proved to be the key to his success. He was also teased by his assistant superintendents about his ability to turn a one-minute speech into an hour-long oration.

Jones’ staff presented him with “slightly used flowers,” which was a poke at the recent round of budget cuts and other budgetary restraints.

BOE Chairman Sydney Cochran teased Jones for retiring while the school board was having to tackle with budget cuts and shortfalls.

“He’s been a wonderful leader. … I don’t think any body could have brought a better work ethic than Ralph has,” Cochran said. “He’s done a great job.”

Other notable retirees included Bainbridge High School ROTC program director Col. Gary Breedlove and Decatur County Maintenance Director Jerry Mills, which neither one was present Monday evening. Breedlove retires with 25 years, but BHS Principal Tommie Howell said Breedlove’s influence on his students was immeasurable.

Mills, who is retiring after 40 years of service, played a significant role in the building of the new high school and West Bainbridge Elementary School, as well as numerous renovation projects through the years, Jones said.

Sheriff Wiley Griffin, who is married to a public school teacher, was the keynote speaker.

“Students are deeply affected by the teacher’s love and affection, a teacher’s character, a teacher’s competence and a teacher’s moral commitment. A teacher effects for eternity; a teacher can never tell where their influence stops,” Griffin said.

He said he sees first-hand the cost of a non-educated society.

“I heard a judge once ask a young man that was standing before him in court, how far do you think you can get in life without a high school diploma?” Griffin said the man said he didn’t know. “The judge said well, I’ll tell you how far you can go. You are here, you have reached your destination. … Our young people without an education have become burglars; they are breaking and entering our jails at an alarming rate.”

Retiring educators

The following are the retiring faculty and staff of the Decatur County Education Department:

School System—Ralph Jones, superintendent, 36 years, and Jerry Mills, maintenance director, 40 years.

Bainbridge High School—Mary Beauchamp, computer specialist, 33 years; Gary Breedlove, Junior ROTC director, 25 years; Teresa Carlisle, PE teacher, 30 years; Barbara Murrah, guidance counselor, 38 years; Roy Zimmerman, English teacher, 23 years, and Emma Gaines, custodial, 25 years.

Bainbridge Middle School—Delrose Betts, seventh grade, 27 years; Dianne Lane, English, 32 years; Kriss Powell, social studies, 29 years; Jacquelyn Rhyner, special education, 25 years; Julia Faye Smith, social studies, 33 years, and Mattie Hampton, paraprofessional, 16 years.

Hutto Middle School—Jacqueline Griffin, media paraprofessional, 30 years, and Steve Simonson, science, 19 years.

Potter Street Elementary School—Rita Wright, food services manager, 30 years; Kay Thomas, third-grade, 25 years; Debra Malone, first-grade, 31 years, and Jeanette Shiver, media specialist, 35 years.

John Johnson Elementary School—Laura Peiper, kindergarten, 25 years.

Jones-Wheat Elementary School—Cathy Cox, teacher, 30 years.

West Bainbridge Elementary School—Dianna Porter, SNP worker, 32.7 years.

Outstanding individuals honored

Each school and several departments recognized their outstanding individuals for the 2009-2010 year. They are the following: Margie Clements, school food services; Cheryl Guy, Performance Learning Center; Kathy Richardson, New Beginnings Learning Center; Patti Faircloth, Hutto Middle School; Davona Cosby, Jones-Wheat Elementary School; Mary Beauchamp, Bainbridge High School; Catherine Gossett, Special Education Department; Lea Hawkins, Bainbridge Middle School; Joyce Wells, John Johnson Elementary School; Nancy Josey, Potter Street Elementary; Natalie Martin, West Bainbridge Middle; and Randi New, Elcan-King Elementary School.