It is hard to believe the 2018-2019 school year has come to a close. We have seen many positive things happen in our Highlands County schools over the course of the year. We have watched students celebrate academic success, as well as accomplishments in sports, clubs, and other organizations. We have also witnessed our young student-leaders stepping up to help others, both in schools and in their towns, through thousands of hours of community service. This reinforces our knowledge that we are not just educating students who are prepared academically, but also young people ready to help make the world a better place.

Earlier this year, we also recognized the teachers and instructional support employees of the year from each school as well as for the district. These selections are always difficult to make because we have so many dedicated and passionate educators changing lives in our classrooms each day.

Most of our students will return to us in the fall, some at the same school, others having progressed from elementary to middle or from middle to high. For our seniors, however, their time as School Board of Highlands County students has ended as they now have transitioned from students to alumni.

The Class of 2019 has graduated and is beginning the next stage of their lives. Each student’s name was called individually, but they did not walk across the stage alone. Instead, they took with them a part of all the people who have touched their lives during their educational journey. Whether those people were family members, teachers, counselors, coaches, mentors or friends, the instruction and words of encouragement, the support and love of these individuals, combined with the hard work of our graduates, has prepared them to take the next first steps on their paths to the future. We know that the Class of 2019 is capable of great things, and we wish them good luck and blessings as they write the next chapters of their stories.

Though the stage lights have barely had a chance to dim from the recent graduation ceremonies, we are already hard at work planning and preparing for the 2019-2020 school year. Tuesday, May 28th, was the last day for teachers. On Wednesday, the 29th, many were back in schools participating in professional development opportunities to increase their teaching tools. Many others will be participating in professional learning throughout the summer, demonstrating the dedication and devotion that our educators possess.

In addition to the teachers preparing for next year, there is also a lot of action at the district office and in schools across the county. Administrators are in planning and training sessions, facilities crews are hard at work at many sites, and there are building and campus safety renovations well underway to ensure the safest campuses possible for our students and staff.

I want to offer a personal thank you to all of the students and families we serve for all you do to contribute to your own success, to your schools, and to your communities. As a former teacher and principal, and now as superintendent of schools, parent and family support and partnership have always meant a great deal to me. I believe in my heart that when working together and combining efforts, resources and love for a child, we can help ensure a successful future for every student who enters our schools.

In one final reflection on this past year, I want to say thank you to our faculty and staff for everything you have done to make this a successful year and for going beyond to support our students. As a Highlands County native, a product of our schools, and an educator, I have known a number of our teachers and staff for a majority of my life. Others who are new to our county, I have met in their schools and in their classrooms. Without reservation, I can say that I am proud of our School Board of Highlands County family and that I appreciate you immensely for your service. Thank you for following your calling to work in education, and for choosing to do so in Highlands County.

Thank you, and have a safe and wonderful summer.

Dr. Brenda Longshore is superintendent of schools for the The School Board of Highlands County.

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