Rakeem “Rock” Quinn watched stone-faced as Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton entered the Bridges classroom at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School early Tuesday morning.

Behind Norton followed district officials and members of the Gulf County School Board.

A wide smile came over Quinn’s face as Norton announced that Quinn had been named Employee of the Year for Gulf District Schools.

Quinn and the other candidates were interviewed last week.

“The interviewers were impressed by his commitment, his returning to school to complete his teaching degree,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lori Price.

Quinn was picked over a group of those non-teachers who provide the glue to every school day, from the paraprofessionals to the bus drivers to the maintenance crew.

“Thank you all,” Quinn said. “I am glad to be back home.

“I’m here to support kids and try to be a role model.”

Quinn will now advance to compete for State Employee of the Year.

The candidates for District Employee of the Year

Rakeem Quinn

Quinn worked in another district before being hired as a paraprofessional in the Bridges class at PSJHS, working with a student with serious anger issues.

Quinn also assists in coaching middle and high school baseball teams as well as the cross country teams.

In the Bridges class, Quinn works with a general education teacher, acting as liaison between teacher and student.

“In an effort to build student confidence, Rakeem provides support to the teacher by proofing assignments and advising the student,” wrote Principal Josh Dailey in a letter of recommendation.

“He also redirects the students to learning tasks and offers strategies that assist in de-escalating potential situations.”

In sum, Dailey wrote, Quinn’s day is about “whatever it takes to create a greater opportunity for social and academic success of the student.”

Evan Brumbaugh

Brumbaugh was nominated out of the finance department by Director of Finance Sissy Worley.

“She is a team player who is always ready to assist others with their duties,” Worley wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Also, she works extremely well with everyone throughout the district as well as in the public.”

Worley noted that in the past two years, the finance department has had three different payroll systems, but Brumbaugh has taken a lead role in learning the new systems and has been asked to assist by other districts.

“It has always been a joy and a pleasure to work with Evan,” Worley wrote. “She is indeed worthy to be named employee of the year.”

Stephanie Newsome

The guidance secretary at Port St. Joe Elementary School, Newsome has also spent time as a classroom paraprofessional.

“Mrs. Newsome is known for her high standard of performance,” wrote Principal Joni Mock in a letter of recommendation. “But, also for the many other hats she wears working in our front office.”

A team player, Newsome is popular with students, families and colleagues, Mock wrote, adding that the list of duties Newsome performs each day is a long one.

“She is kind, caring and always a friendly face, front and center at Port St. Joe Elementary School,” Mock wrote. “From sizing students to replace old or too small shoes, to encouraging parents in a friendly manner to get their child to school on time, to making sure every teacher takes attendance, Mrs. Newsome manages to do it all.”

Carol Porter

Porter works in the lunchroom at Wewahitchka Elementary School and has worked at the school for four years.

Hard-working and deserving of great recognition, wrote Principal Jennifer Guffey in a letter of recommendation, Porter “possesses a caring heart for the children and her work environment.”

“She works to maintain a positive lunchroom environment as she portrays characteristics of honesty, confidentiality and integrity in all use of information and professional decisions,” Guffey continued.

Adele Paul

Paul is the money-manager, bookkeeper and accountability expert on the campus of Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School, wrote Principal Jay Bidwell in a letter of recommendation.

In addition to lauding her money managing (“If I had $10 million I would freely leave it with Adele without receipt or record and know every red cent would be there when I picked it up,” Bidwell wrote), Bidwell also praised Paul’s embrace of the customer-service atmosphere Bidwell as implemented at the school.

That atmosphere is about making students, staff and parents feel important and comfortable when entering the school.

“Through her actions Wewahitchka High has become a kinder, gentler institution and she continues to improve her interpersonal skills each year,” Bidwell wrote.

He also described Paul as “super-conscientious” and a “fantastic young lady.”

“It is not surprising she was chosen for this award,” Bidwell wrote in summation.

Richard Bowers chose not to submit an application to be considered for the district award or state honors beyond. He was selected from the maintenance/transportation department.