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Vidalia Board of Education Honors Retirees

Vidalia Board of Education Honors Retirees
RETIREES HONORED – The retiring teachers and superintendent within the Vidalia City School System were honored during the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Front Row, L to R: Bobby George, Allison Barr, Cathy Pace, Heather Stanley. Back Row, L to R: Beth Smith, Patricia Goethe, Garrett Wilcox, Angela Parrish.Photo by Makaylee Randolph
Vidalia Board of Education Honors Retirees
RETIREES HONORED – The retiring teachers and superintendent within the Vidalia City School System were honored during the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Front Row, L to R: Bobby George, Allison Barr, Cathy Pace, Heather Stanley. Back Row, L to R: Beth Smith, Patricia Goethe, Garrett Wilcox, Angela Parrish.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

The Vidalia Board of Education honored several of the school system’s retirees – including Superintendent Garrett Wilcox – during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 14.

The meeting marked Wilcox’s last board meeting as the district’s superintendent, as he has officially retired, and Assistant Superintendent Sandy Reid is slated to take over the position. “Dr. Wilcox has been a blessing at Vidalia City Schools,” Reid sharing during the recognition, as she informed attendees that Wilcox had served the school system for a total of 15 years – 3 of which he was Vidalia High School Principal, 1 of which he was both Vidalia High School Principal and Vidalia City Schools Superintendent, and 11 of which he was solely the Superintendent.

Reid reminisced on all she had learned from Wilcox, and even shared memorable stories about the leader from her experiences at state education conferences. “You may not know this, but this man is famous,” she told the Board. Reid recounted a recent experience at a state conference in which she discovered this truth. “We’re in a room with hundreds of people from all over the state, and the speaker gets up and says, ‘If you haven’t talked to Garrett Wilcox today…’” she recalled with a laugh. “In every meeting that I have been in since, the speaker – in front of hundreds of people – mentions Dr. Wilcox specifically.”

She continued, “I wish I had a dollar for every phone call that this man makes — his phone list and the people that he supports is a mile long. That’s what he does – he loves to help other people. The things I will remember most about him are his big heart – he likes to play hard; he is not – he is a big softy. He loves people, and he will give you the shirt off his back. His commitment to not only Vidalia City School System but Vidalia as a whole is etched in me permanently as what I can aspire to be as a leader of this school system. He has a desire to make our community better moreso than anyone I have ever had the opportunity of spending time with. Thank you, Dr. Wilcox, for all that you have done.”

Wilcox then addressed the Board and meeting attendees, as he remarked, “This is an opportunity I have been afforded more than anything, and really the opportunity to come over here and be high school principal [was too]. That is probably my favorite job I ever had because when you get up here – whether it is an effort or not – you’re not around the kids like you are as principal.”

He added, “This has been a blessing for me. I’ve enjoyed the people; I knew I’d made it when this was home. It is home and it does mean a lot to me, and it’s been a blessing to be here. All of my kids except one have been able to do 12 years of school here – we haven’t had to move.”

According to Wilcox, the average tenure for a school superintendent in Georgia is 2.8 years. ”I’ve been fortunate and lucky to be able to be here for 12 years, and I’m so grateful. Thank you,” he emphasized.

Along with Wilcox, 3 retiring teachers from Vidalia High School were also honored at the meeting, as Principal Bruce Mulkey took the opportunity to share his gratitude and memories of each of the educators.

The first Vidalia High School retiree honored was Coach Jay Cravey, who has worked in education for 34 years, 7 of which have been in the Vidalia City School System. “Jay came back home [to Vidalia High School] this year, and we had no idea he was only going to be here a year,” Mulkey remarked. “Coach Cravey brings a lot to the table and I know that one of the things that he’s always going to remember is his final evaluation. I had a chance to go in and do an observation on Coach Cravey. I slipped in, did a 30 minute observation, and slipped out, and Coach Cravey never saw me or knew that I was in there. He was going at it – working hard, and we had a good laugh about it shortly after.”

Mulkey continued, “Our kids think a lot of him, as you can tell, and he’s a relationship-first teacher. I’m proud that my son had an opportunity to play for you, Coach, and we appreciate everything that you have done.”

Cravey reacted to the honor, saying, “Thank y’all. This place is home for me, and it means a lot to me. I’ll be around.” Vidalia High School Math Teacher Beth Smith was also recognized by the Board, as she has spent 21 of her total 27 years in education teaching at Vidalia High School. “Dr. Smith is the ultimate professional,” Mulkey began. “She carries herself in a manner that is beyond and above reproach at all times. She is one of the first ones to get to school every day, dressed to the T, and prides herself on being professional. On top of that, no one deconstructs a standard better than Beth. She has everyone’s unit plans laid out for the year, and she does it well in advance.”

The principal recalled one of his first meetings with Smith. “Dr. Smith reminded me that she had already developed unit plans and they would not be changing. I had to get on board with that,” he shared with a laugh.

Mulkey added, “Her being as professional as she is, we did have an opportunity to send her off to a conference last year, and I discovered that she had an alter ego: ‘Beth Ann.’ She does have a fun side, and we are definitely going to miss her. We are going to miss her expertise – you’re not going to be able to replace that in the classroom, and we’re also going to miss her smile – she’s always smiling.”

Smith also spoke on the honor, sharing her gratitude towards the district. “I have so much enjoyed working for you these past few years. You are wonderful – you and the administration at the high school are like a dream team. When my husband and I moved here 21 years ago, we thought we would be here just a year or two because he had a job that moved around a lot. He found another job working in the onion business because of this district, and this school, and this place. So, it is a very special place and it has been an honor to finish my career here,” she said.

Mulkey concluded his recognitions by honoring Vidalia High School History Teacher Bobby George, who has been teaching for 42 years, 6.5 of which have been at Vidalia High School. “So it’s not Mr. George; it’s not Bobby – it’s Bobby George, Bobby G., or B.G,” Mulkey told the audience. “No one in our building has more engaging lessons or creates more excitement about history than Bobby George. Every student at Vidalia High School wants an opportunity to take world history with Bobby George. My son is not a very good student, but absolutely loved his classroom.”

He continued, “At any point during the year, you can go in, and you’ll see students in the hallways, cafeteria – now, Bobby George is nowhere around, but they’re all there and they’re getting after it. He is constantly just doing an amazing job at exposing students and teachers to history, and we appreciate everything he has done.”

The principal ended his speech about George by sharing a memory of one of his first times experiencing George’s class, when he had to ask the teacher to remove a replica of a Civil War musket because of the school’s weapons policy.

George finished the narrative, saying, “I’m going to finish that story. So, Mr. Mulkey was very nice, and said we couldn’t have the musket in the school, so he told me he’d escort me out with it. So, we’re walking out, and two young ladies are coming up – they had been in my class before. No one else is in the hallway. So, I’m carrying the replica and [Mulkey] is walking with me, and he had a suit on. We walk by the two girls and they say, ‘Oh, Mr. Mulkey, that’s a nice suit.’ That’s all they said. And so, Mr. Mulkey goes, ‘They didn’t say anything about Bobby George taking a musket down the hallway!’ I think they were used to it.”

He added, “I appreciate the opportunity to finish out my career at Vidalia High School. I did teach at that school down the road (Toombs County High School) – I love them. And I taught at Vidalia Heritage Academy – and I love them, too. But I really, really love being at Vidalia High School. It has been a great run, and I’ve had some great students. What I’m most impressed by is the faculty. Vidalia High School has some good faculty – they care about the kids. It has been a privilege to be here.”

George ended his comments by sharing a quote which his father-in-law Anson Callaway had previously shared with him. “He had a saying that his father told him before he died. He said, ‘Son, make good footprints. Leave good footprints,’” George told the audience. “So, that’s what I hope I did – I hope that I have left some good footprints, and I hope that I continue to leave good footprints. I appreciate the opportunity to have been at Vidalia High School.”

J.D. Dickerson Primary School Principal Charlene Norfleet also recognized her school’s 5 retirees during the meeting.

Heather Stanley was honored first, as she has spent 16 of her 26 years in education at the school. “If you know her, you know her for her nurturing spirit and her kindness to her students,” Norfleet told the audience. “Just to tell a little bit about who she is — I walked into her classroom one day; there was a student [sitting beside her while] she was in her rocking chair. I could tell that the student was having a rough day. She was sitting there with her book in her hand, reading to the class, and the student had his hands wrapped around her leg. She was just a reading, calming his spirit, and patting his back the whole time – that is who she is. Every time I walk into her classroom, she has a big smile on her face and is loving her students, and they love her right back.”

She added, “We love you and appreciate everything that you have done for all of your students and all of your families – the many generations of lives that you’ve touched. Thank you.”

Stanley responded to the recognition. “Out of the 4 systems that I have taught in, this is home. Thank you, Vidalia City Schools, for being so good to me,” she remarked.

Patricia Goethe was also recognized during the meeting for her 39 years of service to education. “She is one of our pillars at J.D. Dickerson,” Norfleet explained. “She will certainly, certainly be missed. One thing I always think about when I think about her is the way that she would always stop me and talk about her student growth. I knew I wasn’t going to get away from her any time soon, and I didn’t want to, because I was so mesmerized by how she would smile while telling me about how her students had grown. That says everything about who she is and how much she cares for her students.”

“I would just like to thank Vidalia City Schools for allowing me the opportunity to serve our youngest population next to prek — our kindergarteners,” Goethe commented. “We get to provide the foundation for learning, because you know, it starts early. I appreciate the opportunity to instill that joy for learning in them, and it has always touched my heart to see that growth. When we hit the door on the first day of school, I already have my goal set that we are going to do well. I just appreciate the opportunity that you all have given me. J.D. Dickerson has felt like home to me – I started out at Sally D. Meadows when I moved here, but J.D. Dickerson has been home.”

Norfleet began her recognition of Angela Parrish, who has been a teacher for 36 years, with a message of gratitude for her personal experience with the teacher. “That’s a lot of lives that continued from page

she has touched – a lot of families. I appreciate your loyalty, commitment, and unwavering support for me as a new person at your school. You made me feel welcome, so I thank you for that,” Norfleet emphasized.

She added, “She is a prayer warrior. So, when we would have our preplanning walkthroughs, I was with her group one time during that walkthrough. She prayed for our school in such a way that I felt like my feet were lifted off the ground. Thank you so much for all you’ve done, and I wish you well.”

Parrish responded to the honor, saying, “It’s been a wonderful journey. I definitely will miss my crew, and have appreciated all of the support. J.D. Dickerson is like a home to me. I will miss everyone.”

Cathy Pace was the next retiree recognized, as she has spent 22 years of her career at Vidalia City Schools. “I thank you for your support – you taught my child when we first got back to Vidalia. You loved him, supported him, and kept up with him, as you do with all of your students. So, I thank you for that,” Norfleet remarked. “Come back anytime, please, and read to the classes. We love you.”

Pace was speechless at the honor, and thanked Norfleet for the recognition.

Allison Barr was the last retiree honored, as she has spent 8 of her 34 years in education at Vidalia City Schools. “You have been amazing. You have worked with our students that need us the most, and you have set high expectations for them. You have a spirit of ‘I can,’ and for that, I will always remember you – the way that you nurture, but not only nurture, but support and let them know that they can do it. Thank you for that,” Norfleet told Barr.

Barr reflected on her years within the school system, sharing, ““My prek people, I love you so much. It’s going to be hard to leave y’all. I just love J.D. Dickerson, and it has been so wonderful to have family. The two women that I work with are amazing, and they would pick me up on days that I needed it. I just appreciate the opportunity. We’ve had a lot of conversations over the years with Dr. Wilcox, and I have needed a lot of support over the years. But we made it and it’s wonderful. I just want wonderful things for J.D.D. Thank y’all so much!”

Wilcox commented on the retirements, stating, “My predecessor always used the terminology that this is a bittersweet time. It may not be bittersweet for some of you have made it a point where you’re ready to retire, but every year, we think about how much knowledge and experience is walking out the door. You guys all know from your first year of teaching [to now], you’re a different teacher than you were 2030 years ago. We just want to recognize your efforts more than anything.”

In addition to recognizing retirees, the Board also recognized Chief Financial Officer Norma Croft for receiving the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting. This award marks the 9th straight year which Croft has received this honor.

“Each year, we go through a very stringent audit process. When I was a teacher, I remember I would always wonder why anyone cared about my mileage driving to RESA or anything of that nature, but through this audit, all of this documentation that we have is pulled and checked by the Georgia Department of Audits. That’s a very simplistic definition compared to what they really do,” Wilcox explained. “Sometime back, the Department of Audits started giving a recognition to folks that were doing this at a high level, and for the 9th year in a row, Mrs. Croft and her department is receiving in the Award of Distinction for excellence in financial reporting.”

According to Wilcox, this award is given to organizations with quality financial statements and supporting documents in a timely manner, and whose annual financial report is given and unmodified – meaning, it is without any issues and free of significant deficiencies or material weakness and complies with all policy.

“This is really a big deal,” Wilcox emphasized. “I’ve learned that a lot of systems do not have the opportunity to even complete their audit before the next fiscal year is over. Our fiscal year ends June 30, and we typically have our stuff in, waiting on the auditors, before Christmas every year. That work never stops, all while payroll has to be done and other things. Norma and her team do a wonderful job of that.”

Croft reacted to the honor, sharing her gratitude towards her financial team, which consists of Shikima Johnson – Payroll, Nikki Goodwin – Accounting Specialist, Tina Wheeler – School Food Nutrition Bookkeeper, Tammy Johnson – J.R. Trippe Middle School Bookkeeper, Debbie Thompson – Vidalia High School Bookkeeper, Maranda Ellis – J.D. Dickerson Primary School Bookkeeper, and Kim Hamilton – Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Bookkeeper.

“These girls are why this is able to happen. They do what they are supposed to every day, and they tell the principals what they are supposed to do. They deserve it just as much as I do,” Croft emphasized.

In the business portion of the meeting, the Board accepted the tentative FY25 budget, which will be available for public review for a month prior to being voted upon. Public hearings regarding the budget will be held at 12 p.m. on June 3 and 4 p.m. on June 11 at the Vidalia City Schools Board of Education office. Board members agreed to amend the current construction management contract for the school system to include the paving of the Board Office and J.D. Dickerson Primary School parking lots. This additional work will cost $170,000 total.

Two 84-passenger buses were approved to be purchased for $192,225 each, totaling $384,450. These buses will be purchased using bond funds and Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue.

The FY25 nonresident tuition for students who do not live within the Vidalia city limits was approved to remain at $200 per student.

9TH YEAR HONORED – Chief Financial Officer Norma Croft was honored with the Department of Audits and Accounts Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting for the 9th straight year. L to R: Norma Croft, Superintendent Garrett Wilcox.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

WILCOX’S LAST MEETING – Superintendent Garrett Wilcox (right) was honored for his service by Assistant Superintendent Sandy Reid (left) during Wilcox’s last official board meeting on May 14.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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