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Longtime educators to retire from school district

During the December 12, Gilchrist County School Board meeting, the School Board members, as well as administrators, principals, teachers, family and friends of Janet Bradley and Lisa Rowland gathered to wish them well in their retirement.

Superintendent Robert Rankin presented Janet Bradley with a plaque and congratulated her on her 40 plus years with the school district.

Assistant Superintendent Ronda Parrish has worked closely for many years with Janet Bradley and knows her strong work ethic well. Parrish said during the presentation, “She has one of the most knowledgeable curriculum minds I know.  She knows what good instruction looks like and more importantly, she knows how to obtain it.  Janet has served as a leader in our district for decades.  She has led us through the implementation of the Middle School Model, the initiation of state Accountability; she has rolled out the Sunshine State Standards assessed by FCAT as well as the standards associated with FCAT 2.0 and more recently the Florida State Standards.  All of which required a total redesign of curriculum and instruction.  She has been a leader for our district in progress monitoring and curriculum mapping as well, while serving as the Director of Secondary Education. She has served as the Director of Career and Technical Education and rolled out major areas of interest, rigorous courses, established CAPE academies and led the district’s implementation of Industry Certifications.”

Parrish went on to say,

“But, one area I have observed Janet to be most passionate about is her love for reading. She has been a teacher of reading, a coach, a coordinator and a director.  She was instrumental in leading our district through the Florida Reading Initiative, in making reading a course that all students participated in through the 9th grade, and adding one credit of reading as a Gilchrist County graduation criteria.”

Bradley began her career as a teacher in 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Next she taught middle school Language Arts. Later she was the Coordinator of middle grades (4-8) and Dropout Prevention, which was a district position where she worked with all four schools. During that time she developed dropout prevention classes for students who needed extra support. She was reading coach for Trenton High School, then the Director of Secondary Education and Career and Technical Education which lead to online dual enrollment courses through Florida Gateway College. She also lead the implementation of the District’s first virtual school options for students.

During her career she worked for six superintendents, starting  with Eli Read and then followed by Ray Thomas, Carl Williams, Don Thomas, Buddy Vickers and Rob Rankin.

Bradley said one of the highlights of her career, “Was serving on a committee with two others that met with Governor Bush to discuss reading needs in the State’s Schools and the implementation of the Florida Reading Initiative and Just Read Florida!”

One of Bradley’s many accomplishments was being selected as the representative from the NEFEC Region (Northeast Florida Educational Consortium) to present before the Education Appropriations Committee in Tallahassee on the importance of funding reading programs for middle and high schools.

When asked what she enjoyed most about teaching Bradley said, “There is nothing that compares to being a classroom teacher and seeing students learn new concepts every day.  However, I have thoroughly enjoyed training teachers, because when they took the knowledge back to the classroom, a greater number of students benefited from their new knowledge.  I feel that God gave me a gift in the area of curriculum and instruction, and I have done my best to share that knowledge through the years with many teachers. It has been rewarding to see the growth of the teachers I have worked with and their students.”

Superintendent Robert Rankin presented Lisa Rowland with a plaque for her many years of service to the students of Gilchrist  County. Lisa Rowland began her career with the Gilchrist County School District some 30 years ago as a very young speech teacher. This week her teaching career will end as the ESE Director, a job she has enjoyed since 2010. Rowland became the ESE Director after longtime administrator Mary Bennett retired. Before becoming the ESE Director Rowland was the District Staffing and Program Specialist from 2003 to 2010. From 2001 to 2003 she served the district as the Trenton High School Guidance Counselor and prior to that she was a speech/language pathologist from 1987 until 2001.

Assistant Superintendent Ronda Parrish addressed the School Board describing Rowland’s dedication to her job and the students. Parrish said “Lisa is one of the most independent workers I know.  She knows her job, she knows the parameters under which she needs to work. ”

Parrish went on to say, “Lisa has always represented the Gilchrist County School District with class.  She has even caught the eye of state staff with the Florida Department of Education where she has served on various committees due to her expertise in the area of special programs. This position is not an easy one.  I know at times Lisa has had to feel like she is the only one fighting for students with disabilities.  The realities of disabilities as well as the law that dictates decisions that have to be made all have to be made known by Lisa.  The work involved with special programs is extremely difficult.  There isn’t a manual of what to do because each situation is so individualized.  She has had to constantly lead us through the problem solving model to put things in place for students. She has served as a true advocate for children.”

Some of her long list of accomplishments include serving on the ESE State Advisory Board, serving on the State Speech/Language Leadership Team from 2009-2012, served on the Gifted Advisory Board, and co-authored the Department of Education Gifted Handbook in 2006-2007, just to name a few of her long list of accomplishments.

Rowland said,  “I was beginning my career right out of college as a 22 year old, I didn’t sleep for a week, so worried about the trust and responsibility that was given to me as a speech therapist in the school system.  I was so worried about doing a good enough job for the students and families that I was exhausted before I even began work!” Looking back over her long career with the local school district she recalls, “Making a difference in the lives of children has been a highlight of my career, especially when individual students have come back to me after graduation or time spent in the military to thank me for helping them reach their goals.   It has been rewarding to work at the District Office and create a culture where students with disabilities can realize their potential for success given the supports of our programs, principals and teachers.  It’s been a joy to watch our student’s successes and to know I’ve been a small part of that.”

Rowland will be replaced by Dr. Jim Surrency who has come out of retirement to become the new ESE Director for the county.

All the School Board Members agreed that both ladies would be missed by the District. They were praised by the board for their accomplishments and dedication to Gilchrist County students.

After the presentations to Bradley and Rowland the School Board and those attending the event enjoyed refreshments and a time of fellowship in the School Board Meeting room lobby.

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