Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Catoosa’s own Denia Reese was recently one of four statewide recipients of the President’s Award presented by the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
“I was shocked when my name was called,” Reese said. “I am honored and humbled to join the group of professionals who have received this award.”
The GSSA President’s Award is given to superintendents — there are 180 throughout Georgia — for outstanding leadership in their school system and community, according to GSSA Executive Director Herb Garrett.
Dexter Mills, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Educational Services Agency, in his letter nominating Reese for the award, wrote:
“It is with the utmost respect for a true leader that I submit this nomination to you for your consideration for the Georgia School Superintendent Association President’s Awards.
‘Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain.’ - Swedish proverb
“Ms. Denia Reese, superintendent of Catoosa County Schools, is truly a good captain. ... She demonstrated that last spring when a major F4 tornado struck her school system and ravaged Ringgold Middle, Ringgold High School and the Catoosa County Board of Education Central Office. At Ringgold High, the art building collapsed, and the field house was heavily damaged. The field press box was sitting in the school parking lot. At Ringgold Middle, an entire wing was missing. All of these buildings lie within the residential community of Ringgold, which was one of the hardest hit areas. The community was emotionally devastated as some parts of the community were literally destroyed.
“There are no classes in graduate school that prepare one for such a disaster. However, due to her keen insight into the community as a whole, she was able to rally all of the necessary community resources and offer a calmness and assuredness that helped the entire community work through the many issues including the deaths of students that lived nearby the schools and the deaths of other community members.
“One can only imagine how difficult this task was, but Denia Reese handled all of the problems with the grace, skill and compassion of a true leader/learner. Catoosa County finished out the school year with a solid plan utilizing a unique schedule literally putting two high schools in one building and two middle schools in one building. Mrs. Reese was also very sensitive to the Ringgold High School seniors and did all she could do to create a since of normalcy during this chaotic time. She saw to it that they graduated on time and they were allowed to experience the joy of the final days of school with their classmates. During the summer the schools and central office were repaired and school opened on time in the fall.
“As Ellen Glasgow’s famous quote goes, ‘What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.’ The way Mrs. Reese reacted during this crisis is nothing less than remarkable. I could elaborate further; however, you may remember last fall at Bootstrap Mrs. Reese graciously chronicled her story in a very well-prepared PowerPoint presentation in hopes that if anyone else experienced such a disaster they could go to the GSSA website and utilize her presentation to gain insight on how to work through such a devastating event.
“Therefore, I hope you agree that Ms. Reese is worthy of your presidential recognition.”
Humbled not only by the award but also by the outpouring of help that helped her earn it, Reese shared the credit with others in her acceptance speech.
“While I received the award, Catoosa County Public Schools’ recovery after the tornado was a team effort,” she said. “I have excellent directors, administrators, teachers and employees who supported me after the tornado and in the months that followed as we rebuilt our Ringgold schools and campus.
“I am also fortunate to work with exceptional individuals in GSSA. After the tornado,superintendents across the state offered to provide buses and personnel to help us return to school. I wish I could give an award to everyone in GSSA for the amazing kindness and support they extended during our time of greatest need.
“I would like to thank my team and GSSA for supporting and encouraging me during the worst time of my life. I learned that you can survive anything when you are surrounded by people who care about you.”