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School board salutes Teachers of the Year

By Crystal Burns


The Trenton Special School District Board of Trustees saluted the 2019-20 Teachers of the Year at the district’s Oct. 13 meeting.

Holly Knott, P.E. teacher at Trenton Elementary School, Kim Laughlin, sixth grade math teacher at Trenton Rosenwald Middle School, and Katie Bruketta, English I, ACT prep, and AP human geography teacher at Peabody High School, were selected by their peers for the prestigious honor. Bruketta was chosen as the district’s Teacher of the Year and was selected as the Northwest CORE Teacher of the Year. She represented Trenton and the CORE area in the Tennessee Teacher of the Year contest.

Michele Elliott, TSSD supervisor of instruction, spoke with students to get their comments on Knott, Laughlin, and Bruketta to share with the honorees and the school board. Students said Knott is very nice, helpful, and caring, and she plays basketball very well.

A second grader said of Knott, “She’s been here for a long, long time – as long as I can remember.”

“Holly Knott is an exceptional P.E. teacher,” said TES principal Cortnee Wilkes. “She loves our students and wants them to be successful in all areas of school. Holly takes on a lot of added responsibilities at our school. She is the co-chair of our Do Right Program and was instrumental in beginning the PBIS program at TES. She also coaches our third and fourt grade Trenton PRIDE basketball teams after school and on weekends. She is a leader and someone I can always depend on to get the job done.”

Students said Laughlin is always positive and is a “very active math teacher.”

“She’s the best math teacher I’ve ever had,” one student said.

TRMS principal Paul Pillow said Laughlin is one of the school’s finest teachers. Before coming to Trenton, Pillow was at Arlington Middle School in Jackson, and Laughlin worked at the Bank of Jackson in the marketing department. The bank partnered with the school, and the two worked together.

When Pillow took the job at TRMS, Laughlin e-mailed him to let him know she had her teaching certificate and asked if he would take a shot on her.

“We took a shot, and I will say it’s one of the best shots I’ve taken in my life,” Pillow told the board.

After the meeting, Pillow added, “Her lessons are always very structured, and she goes out of her way to make sure students are mastering the standards she is teaching. Mrs. Laughlin also dedicates a great deal of her personal time outside of school hours working with students and other extracurricular activities. This year she will be taking a group of students to Washington D.C. on an educational adventure. Her passion and belief in her students’ abilities are contagious and inspires all of her colleagues to strive to make TRMS the best.”

Bruketta will represent the district at the Greater Gibson County Area Chamber of Commerce banquet, where she competes against colleagues in the Bradford and Gibson County Special School districts for the Educator of the Year Award. The chamber banquet will be held Oct. 20.

Her students described her as a caring but challenging teacher.

“She always pushed me to do more and be more as a person,” one student said.

“She showed me what a good work ethic really looks like,” another said. “She deserves all the credit she gets.”

“Ms. Bruketta continues to exuberate a sense of relentlessness among her students,” said Peabody assistant principal Shane Jacobs. “The work ethic and desire to be great among all of her students is a testament to her professionalism and total mastery of her craft. She is an incredible teacher!”

Elliott added her own high praise for Knott, Laughlin, and Bruketta.

“When I say that these are three of the finest teachers that I have ever had the privilege to work with, I mean it,” she said.

Money matters – After the Teachers of the Year were honored, Tammy Smith, district finance director, handled the bulk of the agenda. Smith filled in for Lisa Seiber-Garland to let the board know that the district has received a $27,900 grant to purchase, prepare, and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables at no charge to students at Trenton Elementary School. She also noted that the district is working with USDA on the Farmers to Families Food Box program, which provides fresh meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and milk to up to 600 families. The district was scheduled to host the drive-thru giveaway on Oct. 1, but issues with transportation led to the sudden cancelation. Smith said that Seiber-Garland is working to reschedule the event.

Smith filled in for Stephanie Franks, Attendance and Safety director, to report the district has received a $30,980 Safe Schools grant to help purchase and update security equipment. The district has received the grant several years in a row and used the funding for projects such as installing key card access doors at all three schools. Director of Schools Tim Haney noted that without the grants, a district of Trenton’s size “would be hard pressed to do some of the things we’ve been able to do” to make facilities safer for students and staff.

Smith said that the district received the LEA Reopening & Programmatic Support Grant under the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The $40,000 helped the district pay for some of its online curriculum and some technology needed to help students learning virtually this year.

Smith also reported several carryover funds from title money the district receives each year: Title I $15,191.60, Title II $16,190.72, Title III $3,959, Title VA $1,534.14, IDEA 901 $32,543.99, and IDEA Pre-School $9,209.62. After the meeting, Smith said the district doesn’t usually carry over that much federal money, but dismissing school in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic probably cut short the district’s ability to spend the funds in the 2019-20 school year.

Director’s report – Haney told the board that Tom Ferrell has signed an agreement to sell the tower his company built on Peabody High School property to K2 out of Delaware. Haney said he hasn’t heard anything about the financial aspects of the sale, but that the move is good for the district, which will receive residuals from K2 and the companies it’s able to secure for the tower. Verizon Wireless is already renting space there.

Haney also reported the retirement of Terrie Joyner, longtime bookkeeper at Peabody High School, who will call it quits at the end of this semester. Haney said the school has already begun interviews to find Joyner’s replacement so that Joyner can train the new hire. He credited Joyner for the school’s “clean, squeaky audits.”

“Terrie is a really good person, too,” he said. “She was really flawless.”

The Trenton Special School District board typically meets the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the district office. To better social distance, the board has met in the Peabody technology lab for the past several months. Meetings are open to the public.

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