Those who work daily in the forefront recently had the privilege of honoring those who work behind the scenes. The annual Administrative Services Banquet each year honors those who make the system operate: the maintenance staff, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and mechanics, paraprofessionals, secretaries, nurses, security officers and technology staff.
"It is my pleasure to say to you 'thank you' for making our system what I think is one of the greatest anywhere," the Board of Education Chairman, Virginia Bradshaw, said to the large group.
School board members, administrators and central office department heads became servers and dishwashers for the banquet prepared by the school nutrition department and held in the Thomson High School cafeteria. The Thomson High School jazz band supplied the atmosphere music directed by Jesse Morlan.
The program took a trip into the past to pay special tribute to Mary E. Sanders, who began teaching in McDuffie County in 1932 at Whitaker Grove School. Ms. Sanders would use her $18 monthly salary to purchase school books for the African-American students who attended the one-room school.
When the school closed, Ms. Sanders moved on to teach at Piney Grove School, Pylant School and the McDuffie County Training School, which is now known as Crossroads Learning Center on Pine Street. She taught school in Columbia County when integration was initiated.
Jacqueline Wiley-Morris, the secretary of the office of administrative services at the McDuffie County BOE, and school social workers Stephanie Taylor and Yolanda Copeland went to Ms. Sanders' house in Harlem and interviewed her before the banquet.
"It was amazing. To be 95 years old, she has a great memory," Ms. Wiley-Morris said. "And all the stuff she was telling us about, we had no idea how stuff went on back then. ... I think she really deserved to be honored. She is a really good woman, and she's very wise."
Because the ladies noticed during their visit that Ms. Sanders "had to keep getting up to answer her phone," they presented her with a cordless phone at the banquet.
"I think she was in shock, but she enjoyed it," Ms. Wiley-Morris said.
Also honored at the banquet were: Charles Hurst, maintenance employee of the year; Joyce Ramsey, para-professional employee of the year; Wilbert Daniels, custodian of the year; Kay Anthony, school secretary of the year; Sheila Johnson, central office secretary of the year; Kimberly Carter, school nutrition employee of the year; James Key, school bus driver of the year; Doris Clark, school bus monitor of the year; Julie Powell, substitute bus monitor of the year; Thomson High School, school cafeteria of the year; Maxwell Elementary School, quality assurance school of the year; and Enoch Booker, transportation employee of the year.