Board of Education honors Tennant’s legacy, salutes Teachers of the Year

Geoffrey M. Tennant’s legacy – a lifetime devoted to bettering his community and the lives of those in it – continues to reverberate throughout Polk County.

The Polk County Board of Education took two steps Monday night to permanently honor that life well-lived and the impact that Tennant made upon the school district.

To open its monthly meeting, moved to Polk County High School to allow room for a larger crowd with proper social distancing, the board held a short ceremony to at first unveil a portrait of Tennant by local artist Rich Nelson, then announce the posthumous naming of Tennant as the board’s Chairman Emeritus.

Tennant, who passed away in July 2019 at the age of 79, joined the faculty of Tryon High School in 1966, beginning more than five decades of dedication to Polk County Schools. He served as a teacher and coach at Tryon High, then became a member of the Board of Education in 1992 before becoming its chairman in 1996. He remained the board’s chair until his death.

Former Polk County Superintendent William J. Miller, who first met Tennant as a student at Tryon High, spoke before the unveiling of Nelson’s work.

“It’s such a fabulous thing to have a person as chair and part of the board who has no agenda other than what’s best for children,” Miller said. “And that’s what Mr. Tennant was, and I think everybody in this community, from farmer to CEO, knew that was true and had great respect for him and what he stood for and what he meant to do and tried to achieve for children in this place that we call home.

“And so it was just a great thing and a great comfort to me as a young superintendent to have somebody like Geoff Tennant on the board and as chair to help mentor me and help me through.”

Miller recalled the steady hand with which Tennant led the board for more than two decades and the manner in which he conducted himself with fellow local residents.

“I never will forget that during my time as (superintendent), no matter who came to speak to the board and no matter how upset they may or may not be, he had great patience with them, he showed great respect for them, and they had great appreciation for him,” Miller said.

“And his presence in the room brought people’s temperament or made people’s temperament better. And that was a big thing to all of us during my time, my 13 years as superintendent, his ability to relate to all of our citizens and all of our citizens feel like he was going to try to treat them fair.”

Nelson’s portrait will hang in the board meeting room at Stearns Education Center.

In other action at Monday’s meeting:

* The board offered special recognition to 2020-2021 District Teacher of the Year Laura Jane Howald of Polk Central Elementary; Principal of the Year Jan Crump of Polk Central; and Teachers of the Year Dawn Forward of Polk County High School, Kathryn Patterson of Polk County Middle, Ginger Rackley of Saluda Elementary, Stephanie Blanton of Sunny View Elementary and Wendi Owens of Tryon Elementary.

* The board heard a presentation from Polk County High School student Chan Barber, who offered a proposal for the creation of a fishing team at PCHS

* The board heard details about the district’s support of its newest educators and approved the Beginning Teacher Support Program Plan as presented by Curriculum and Instruction Director Ronette Dill

* Superintendent Aaron Greene provided an update on recent changes to the District’s Remote Learning Plan

* The board addressed calendar changes necessitated by recent school closings related to Tropical Storm Zeta

* The board approved the 2020-2021 budget resolution as presented by Finance Officer Debbie Lovelace

* The board adopted the most recent policy updates provided by the N.C. School Boards Association upon recommendations from the Board’s Policy Committee and Assistant Superintendent Dave Scherping

* Exceptional Children’s Program Director Mike Melton shared the district’s Annual Report for Students with Disabilities with the board

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