Jim Norton announced there would be no motivational speaker for Monday’s back-to-school employee celebration.



Jim Norton announced there would be no motivational speaker for Monday’s back-to-school employee celebration.

The $2,000 that would given away in a series of drawings, the Superintendent of Schools added, should provide sufficient motivation.

Teachers, principals and administrators gathered at the Honeyville Community Center to kick-off the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, enjoy a repast provided by Centennial Bank via Paul Gant BBQ, and, for some, pocket cash or give baskets.

After the meal, they were headed to their respective schools and classroom, where the students are scheduled to join them on Monday.

One overridingly important question for the district, as Norton noted, was exactly how many students would be joining them.

As of last week, the district was running roughly 90 students behind enrollment projections, though the gap had closed to 54 by the beginning of the week.

Those students carry roughly $4,000 to the district.

“We hope, on the first day or the first week, we will come out with the number we need,” Norton said.

And, Norton added, while the district faces challenges, they are not on a level of some neighboring districts.

Gulf District Schools approved the last of hirings for the coming year during a meeting following Monday’s celebration and school grades show the district is above the mien.

“We have a wonderful district,” Norton said. “When we look at other districts you realize how blessed we really are.

“We are truly a district school system. We are a solid B district. We know all our schools are truly A schools if they were evaluated independently. We want to find out how to put it all together; we are already in the top third of districts in the state, but we want to be in the top 10.”

The event in Honeyville served a dual purpose, part pep rally and part orientation.

School principals were each given the opportunity speak and introduce the newest members of their faculty and staff, each earning applause from the standing-room-only audience.

“We are looking forward to an outstanding year,” said Tracy Bowers, principal at Wewahitchka Elementary School.

In addition, it served as an opportunity for a little community outreach to the teachers and non-teachers who help make the system hum.

“There is no doubt it’s a quality education” children receive, said Jim Haynes with Centennial Bank. “(Teachers) do a huge service to children of this community.

“It takes a special person.”

The bank, Norton noted, provided $25,000-$30,000 in in-kind contributions to the district during the 2016-17 school year and the also foot the bill for the ribs and fixings lunch enjoyed the employees Monday.

Further, Woodmen Life provided the dessert and local churches, businesses and organizations provided the donations of cash handed out in drawings during the event.

“We have got the greatest people in the world in this community and this school district,” Norton said, adding that Monday was a rare opportunity to put teachers on the receiving end of the outreach equation.

“You, as teachers, you are always on the giving side, you give for the kids and it is often thankless,” Norton continued. “It’s not easy. I hope you had a wonderful summer and welcome (to another school year).”