A local parent expressed her appreciation for the Tift County School System at Tuesday night’s regular meeting. Vice Chairman John Smith led the meeting in the absence of Chairwoman Kim Rutland.
Local citizen Sharease Lewis Hughes, who had three daughters go through the local school system, thanked the faculty and staff from Aug. 1993 to May 2013 at Annie Belle Clark Primary School, G.O. Bailey Elementary School, Matt Wilson Elementary School, Eighth Street Middle School, Tift County High School Northeast Campus and TCHS, as well as the Tift County Board.
She said she and her daughters would like to personally thank them for “a job well done.”
“From the bottom of our hearts and to the depths of our souls, may God continue to gracefully bless each of you is our prayer. We thank you all for your time, your effort and your support on successfully educating the Lewis family,” she said, presenting Superintendent Patrick Atwater with a framed certificate of appreciation.
Hughes said she went to school in New Jersey where “you had to want it.” She said the classrooms had 50 or more students and some of the attitudes were disrespectful and rude. She then moved to Tift County in 1991.
“The only thing I can say is I’m grateful,” she said. “There were times when I wanted to give up and just go back home and they (her daughters) never wanted me to leave. And for that, I thank you Tift County.”
Hughes said her oldest daughter ended up in special education, exited out and received all of her credits in the 12th grade but was unable to march with her class after several attempts to pass the graduation test.
“But, in my eyes, it was a job well done Tift County, myself,” she said, noting she wanted her daughter to get the best and she felt like she did.
Her middle daughter graduated in 2009, but got pregnant in the 10th grade. Hughes said this twisted her household upside down, but they made it. She said she would take care of the baby if her daughter made three promises — she would stay in school, graduate on time with her class and remain an honor student.
“For that, I thank you Tift County,” she said.
Hughes said her daughter graduated with honors and then earned a four-year biology degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. She has now gone into the United States Army. She is two weeks into her basic training and from there, she will go to officer school.
“For that, I thank you Tift County,” Hughes said.
She said her youngest daughter graduated May 2013 with superior honors. She completed her first semester at Valdosta State University and is currently in her second semester. She made the Dean’s List with a 4.0 GPA.
“I thought it would be robbery if I didn’t come and tell y’all thank you just because I appreciate it,” Hughes said. “They say it starts from home. I think it was a team effort. I think we all played a part in this from them leaving home, going to school and returning back home. For that, I thank you Tift County.”
Following her speech, the board thanked her. Smith commented it was rather refreshing to hear a parent come and express their appreciation to the system for their children.
“We certainly appreciated Ms. Hughes,” he said.
Not only did the board receive words of appreciation from Hughes and head boys basketball coach Dr. Eric Holland (who was there with his team and assistant coaches to be recognized as the 2014 Class AAAAAA state champions), but Atwater also informed them that next week is Georgia School Board Appreciation Week.
Before presenting the certificates, he said during his tenure as superintendent - eight years in September - he thinks this is the first time someone put in the effort as a parent to thank the board of education. He said there are thousands of others who hold that level of appreciation, but Hughes is the first to take the opportunity to do it.
Board members were each presented with a certificate of appreciation. When Atwater gave board member Rita Griffin her certificate, he said, “This will be the last certificate of appreciation she receives as a school board member, but it won’t be the last time she gets appreciated.” This led to Griffin shedding some tears.
Noting that the board members are paid $50 a meeting, Atwater said, “You don’t do it for the money. You do it for the love of the students.”
Also, the group of staff who traveled to Atlanta to express their feelings about the Common Core Standards in Georgia were recognized. Smith said they did a great service.
“We would certainly hope that you made such an impact on the people there that it may alter their feelings on the Common Core,” he said. “Thank you so much.”
Scott Haskins, principal at Northeast Campus, thanked Atwater and the board for the opportunity to go and have his voice heard. He said, “I was never more proud to be a part of this family as I was when I was in Atlanta because of all of the people I was with.”
He added that it was a “heartwarming thing.”
Also, Richard Fisher, principal at Len Lastinger Primary School, said it was interesting that everyone had the same message — what’s best for the children. Others also spoke.
Board member Marian Richbourg commented that they were very proud to have the group in Atlanta. Griffin told them that she not only wants them to stand up on the state level, but she wants them to also feel free to speak up locally. She said they have that freedom to speak up to their principals.
“We appreciate you,” Smith told them.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.