COVINGTON -- Members of the Newton County Board of Education said good-bye to their leader Tuesday night, as Superintendent Steven Whatley presided over his last school board meeting. He is set to retire at the end of the month after 36 years as an educator, including almost 21 in the Newton County School System central office and four as NCSS superintendent.
"It's hard to believe it's come to an end," Whatley said. "It's a bittersweet moment, and you never think about it. Life does these kind of things to you -- you are here one minute doing something and not doing it the next."
With a resolution honoring Whatley, the board recognized him for serving as NCSS superintendent for the past four years and all of the system's and board's accomplishments during that time.
"Dr. Whatley provided the school system with excellent vision and exemplary leadership that resulted in significant improvements in student achievement and school facilities and set the stage for providing unprecedented new opportunities for students to succeed in both college and the work force," reads the resolution signed by each of the five school board members. "Under his leadership, three new schools were constructed on time and within budget, and two parent involvement theme schools and the district's first ever charter school opened."
They also praised him for having a $3 million grant awarded to NCSS under his leadership for the first career academy and also for making communication with stakeholders a priority with a parent involvement campaign, student forums, electronic newsletters, automated calling services to parents and video messages.
"We thank you for your friendship and stewardship, this year especially," said school board Chair Cathy Dobbs. "We look forward to you resting and relaxing."
He also was recognized for several awards and honors earned under his leadership -- district accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a school board of distinction with the Georgia School Boards Association and being a Top 10 digitally advanced school board.
"It has been truly a team effort," Whatley said about all of the honors. "You cannot find a better group of people to work with. ... This bunch is like family."
The board also presented him with a framed portrait that will hang in the board room along with his resolution.
"Now we have not one pair of eyes but two pairs of eyes," Dobbs said, referring to the portrait of former NCSS Superintendent Wendell Clamp that also hangs in the board room.
The school board also honored member C.C. Bates, who also participated in her last school board meeting Tuesday night. In January, she announced that she would resign from her post in June to take a new job at Clemson University.