Alma School Board members accepted resignations from six employees including one long time assistant principal during their regular meeting Thursday night.
Suzy Ferguson, assistant principal at Alma Intermediate School, is retiring after 32 years with the school district, she said. Her resignation is effective at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
“I’ve always loved what I do (and) I love the kids,” Ferguson said. “I know God put me in this job and he’s given me peace about this. I feel like I’m leaving while I’m on top.”
Ferguson has been assistant principal at the intermediate school for 19 years and was named assistant principal of the year by the Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals in 2013.
In the 13 years before becoming an assistant principal, Ferguson was a teacher for the school district.
Ferguson has been “blessed” to work with her Alma peers, she said.
“I’ve enjoyed working with some of the best school professionals in Arkansas and for a district whose rich history is about doing what is best for kids,” Ferguson wrote in her resignation letter.
Jim Warnock, Alma Intermediate School principal, said he will miss working with Ferguson and hopes to keep her involved in the school district after her retirement.
“We’ve had the same core beliefs about teaching and learning and that’s made things go well,” Warnock said. “We’ve always had a real strong attitude of respect.”
Ferguson is not looking for a new job, she said. She plans to spend her retirement taking care of and spending time with her family, she said.
“I’m not sure what comes next, except to be present for my family,” Ferguson said.
Board members approved Ralynn Wilkinson to take up in the 2017-18 school year the assistant principal position being vacated by Ferguson.
Wilkinson, an Alma High School graduate, worked three years as a gifted and talented coordinator and 15 years as an elementary school teacher. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Arkansas State University and she is working on her administration specialist degree.
Terry McGonigle, the high school theater teacher who has been with the district seven of his 42 years as an educator, also is retiring. McGonigle was inducted into the Arkansas Thespian Hall of Fame on Feb. 13, 2016.
He has received numerous other honors, including the first Georgia Youth Arts Educator of the Year award in 1999 and being inducted into the Kansas Theatre Hall of Fame in 2002, the Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Educational Theatre Association’s National Theatre Educator Hall of Fame in 2008.
In his letter of resignation, McGonigle writes that his years at Alma have been “some of the best and happiest” of his years as an educator.
“I have been challenged professionally and artistically to continue to grow as an educator and a practicing artisan,” McGonigle wrote.
McGonigle also is a renowned costume designer and created costumes for the National Thespian casts of “Ragtime” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” He also created the costumes for the Emmy award winning local short film “Step Into: The King Opera House.”
Also resigning are Tiffaney Drinkwitz, head volleyball coach and teacher who has been with the district 21 years; Cindy Valentine, who has been an educator at the district for 31 years; Dane Madsen, the high school and middle school drama teacher; and Lenn Hall, teacher and coach.
Board members approved hiring Kathy Jones as the high school volley ball coach and teacher, and David Thrift as high school special education teacher. Administrators’ employment contracts were extended until June 30, 2019.
A proposal to purchase seven new school buses for the district also was approved by board members. Each bus will hold 89 passengers and cost $92,735, said Superintendent David Woolly.
Purchasing the seven buses will get “everything older than 1992 off the routes,” Woolly said. The district has only added three regular buses to their fleet since 1992, he said.
School officials will look at replacing more buses later in the year, Woolly said.