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Posted 10/22/20

Many people go above and beyond the call of duty each and every day. Most go the extra mile never seeking recognition.  Strength of character, a steadfast belief in always doing the right thing and a genuine commitment to serving others is their motivation.   We call these people Unsung Heroes.


Each year we canvas our District’s landscape full of heroic people to try and identify that one individual or group that typifies what it really means to be a true Unsung Hero.  So many among us do an excellent job, not for fame, not for recognition, but simply for the satisfaction of a job well done.  Tonight, it is my pleasure to recognize one such stellar group of District employees.  The role of these men and women is to provide operational support for our School District.  The Operations’ Division Team is a group of unsung heroes who, each and every day, directly impact the quality of the learning and work environment for our students and staff.


As we are all aware, 2020 has been a challenging year.  Before the end of last school year, we were impacted by the global pandemic which radically transformed all our lives.  Virtually every facet of how we routinely conduct the business of educating the youth of Escambia County has been affected.  How we instruct, how we clean our facilities, how we transport and feed our students and how we safely operate as an organization have all been impacted.  And every step of the way along this unprecedented journey of change, the Operations Division has had to adapt, occasionally improvise and always overcome every obstacle confronting them.


The Operations Division consists of eight departments; Maintenance and Custodial Services, Transportation, Facilities Planning, School Food Services, Warehouse and Materials Management, Protection Services, Information Technology and Energy Management.  Like all of us, their work world was turned upside down and a myriad of challenges was thrust upon them; all requiring a solution just to carry out the act of opening and operating schools.


And as if a pandemic was not enough challenge, in the midst of reworking how we safely conduct business as a School District, our community was devastated by Hurricane Sally.  Once again, our Unsung Heroes stepped up to the plate.  The Operations Division mobilized while others remained home.  Each day they reported to work leaving their families and loved ones behind and worked to recover the District and get schools reopened in record time.  Many of the staff sustained damages to their own homes yet they still came, worked late and never complained. 


 Our Operations crews assessed every school and facility for damages before the winds even died down.  In less than 48 hours, the district had a remediation/restoration plan for every site.  They got busy making our schools safe.  They worked day and night cutting down trees, removing debris, reinstalling miles of fencing, removing wet ceiling tiles, shattered awnings and windows and restoring flooded spaces. Electricians restored power, repaired equipment and tested HVAC systems while operations team members extracted and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of frozen and refrigerated food from freezers and coolers throughout the district until power could be restored.  IT technicians repaired downed and broken fiber optic cables and Transportation staff personally drove all school bus routes to reroute around obstructions and assure safe passage of our students.  In less than a week schools reopened long before normality returned to the rest of our community.


We are so proud of the employees of the Operations’ Division; their can-do spirit, their professionalism and their commitment to our students.   It is for these reasons and many more that we would like to present Shawn Dennis, Assistant Superintendent of Operations and the Operations Division with a plaque and name them this year’s Unsung Heroes.