Staff honored for decades of service

Clakston teachers were recognized by the school board for their work in classrooms and throughout the district. Photo by Trevor Keiser
Clakston teachers were recognized by the school board for their work in classrooms and throughout the district. Photo by Trevor Keiser

Clarkston Community Schools honored over 60 staff members at the April 18 regular board meeting, who have served the district for 25 years and more.
Of those, nine were given special recognition for their service of 35 years or more.
Susan Banworth served 41 years as educator for Clarkston Community Schools. Banworth is serving her fifth year at Sashabaw Middle School as a seventh grade social studies teacher, but began her career at Andersonville Elementary.
Not only has Banworth been at Andersonville, but throughout her time she has actually been in seven of the eleven buildings the district. That’s because for 33 years she worked in “Clarkston’s Gifted and Talented” program serving as the talent development specialist. When a district needs assessment many years ago pinpointed that there was a need to start such a program Banworth was apart of the team set out to research, visit other districts and then implement a program here in Clarkston. Soon districts all around were coming to visit her classroom as she became the model. She worked with staff too helping train to work with the gifted and talented population.
When asked by staff if it was difficult moving to all the different buildings over the years, Bansworth responded “no two years were the same.”
Outside the classroom she started the Future Solvers of America in the early 80’s. Then a few years ago she revived it, breathing new life into the Problem Solvers Taking the team two years ago to the international competition where again she’ll return this year with her state championship team.
Custodian David Blehm has worked 40 years in Clarkston serving in many different roles.
Blehm recalled his first week where he called the (maintenance) supervisor everyday to get a job. He started out as a general custodian, filled in for head custodians, been the Buildings and Grounds supervisor and spent the last 20 years as the maintenance foreman. Blehm is also asbestos manager and has put the asbestos management plan together.
He installed the first computerized control system in the district nearly 30 years ago and he did this himself while crawling through the tunnels of the old high school, now junior high. He remembers that whole year of working in the tunnels.
He loves most coming to work everyday. He enjoys his job in maintaining the buildings and takes pride that he has not had to close a building due to a building problem under his control. He would like to work another 3-5 years.
Ned Burdick has served the district for 37 years as a science teacher at Clarkston High School.
Burdick served honorably as the first equestrian team faculty sponsor, while knowing absolutely nothing about horses. He’s been a class sponsor, ran pep assemblies for many years and was able to conduct arguably the worst supervision duty every by agreeing to chaperone Spring Break trips. He’s also the longtime President of the CEA and remains actively involved and engaged in union activities.
Burdick believes: “Anybody who goes past 30 years in teaching isn’t doing it for the money. It’s personal.”
He noted that it’s his close knit relationships of his fellow teachers that have inspired him throughout his career to keep working hard everyday, as well as the great pleasure he receives from hearing from graduates as they move throughout their lives.
High school Special Education teacher Patricia Carter has also served the district for 37 years. Having taught from kindergarten through high school, which she says has given her a “unique perspective” that she is able to use with her students on a daily basis.
Carter always known she wanted to be a special education teacher and began working with special needs students at a very young age through her church, Girl Scouts, SCAMP and then in her professional career. Trisha feels very blessed to have a career where she feels she can make a difference in someone’s life each day and each day is different which makes it difficult for her to believe she’s been doing this job for 37 years.
She also got her master’s degree in counseling, not to change jobs or go into counseling, but to “better serve the students,” that she serves. She’s also worked with students through extracurricular activities such as the “Just say No” program, SADD and currently on the Safe Driving Campaigns for high school students and this year she was recognized with the top program in the state.
Custodian Dale Hamilton has served Clarkston for 42 years. He started out as a general custodian before moving to the head custodian position. He’s worked at Bailey Lake, North Sashabaw, South Sashabaw, Clarkston Junior High, Clarkston High School and is currently at the Renaissance High School.
One of the things Hamilton remembers most similar to Blehm is crawling through the tunnels of the old junior high, which is now Renaissance High School. What he really enjoys about Clarkston is the friendship’s he’s made over his 42 years. Hamilton loves working with the great students and wonderful staff.
Custodian Michael Hull worked 37 years in the district spending 10 of them between Pine Knob and Clarkston Elementary Schools and the last 27 at Clarkston High School.
Hull began as many custodians do on the nightshift. When he moved to days he was able to build a great appreciation for the students he served. He spoke of the great kids we have in Clarkston Schools and how much interacting with them has meant to him. He said “the students are polite, helpful and appreciative” of the work he does. His interactions have kept him focused on doing quality work over the years. His greatest award has been the relationships he’s shared with coworkers and students.
Science teacher Patricia McMillen who’s served 36 years, started out as a long-term substitute until former Deputy Superintendent Mel Varra walked into the classroom she was subbing in and offered her a job. She took it and the rest has been history. She spent a few years at Clarkston Junior High School and the rest of her career teaching science at CHS. McMillen has served as a high school science department chair and has coach many sports during her career.
Her motivation has been the relationships she’s formed with her students She has always thought of them as her children and has kept that in mind when dealing with students on emotional and social issues. She’s taught science for 36 years, but she’s also taught life lessons.
Kurt Richardson’s 40 years of service includes five months as a paraprofessional and two months as a custodian. . He is a PE teacher and a longtime department chairperson at the high school. He’s worked at Sashabaw Middle School, Clarkston Junior High and Clarkston High School, both the old and new high schools.
Richardson recalled the “tough pink slip days” when he began his career. While frustrating, this never caused him to rethink his chosen profession. Richardson has always valued the tremendous support of administration he’s had and the relationships and the camaraderie he’s developed with teachers over the years.
He’s has always been a strong proponent of teaching physical fitness and it’s relationship with academic achievement.
Richardson has coached four sports for 39 years, which is an estimated total of over 60 seasons of working with kids in the community.
Of his 39 years, winning the state football titles in 2013-14 were very special. However, he’s most appreciative of the relationships he’s built with former players. Particularly those he coaches with, has developed friendships with and countless others who have contacted him to tell him how the lesson they learned on the field have translated through their lives, particularly those students who have gone on to serve in the military. They hold a special place in Richardson’s heart.
Holly Rupprecht spent two years at Clarkston Junior High before going to the high school where she’s spent the past 35 years. Rupprecht was a college athlete who was instrumental in beginning the girls’ softball program at CHS, coaching the first girls’ freshman softball team.
She is also one who has many involved interests outside of work. She is a master gardener, she cares deeply for environmental issues and she is a champion dog shower. And she brings these expertise to her classroom.
Rupprecht has spent years figuring out ways how to engage students in the curriculum outside the classroom and keeping up in technological advancement that can aide in student learning. She spends much of her time and own resources to make much of this happen. Rupprecht has enjoyed seeing what her former students do after leaving school, particularly as it applies to what she was able to teach them.
Clarkston Superintendent Dr Rod Rock said it’s “very rear in the year 2016 to have people spend 40 years, 35 years in one place. And to do so is amazing to me. All the lives you’ve touched, the difference you’ve made in people’s lives and how much you mean to this community.”