Recently Retired, Seven APS Employees Honored

Board Recognizes Distinguished Employees
Posted on 06/11/2019
Image of AchievementHalf a dozen recently retired Akron Public Schools employees attended the June 10 board meeting to receive their Distinguished Employee Emeritus Certificates. Each was presented by a different board member who read a brief history of each employee's career highlights.

Image of Patrick Bravo and Jim DyerJames Dyer (presented by Patrick Bravo)
After graduation from North High School, this proud Viking decided to enter the work force. He was about to make a decision that would positively affect his life and the lives of many others. In 1978, Jim was hired as a full-time custodial worker with Akron Public Schools. After a brief stint as an itinerant and in the Grounds Department, Jim got his first custodial assignment at Ellet High School. He became a Licensed Custodial Worker in 1981. One year later, he became an Assistant Custodian. This meant he had the exciting opportunity to work the "night shift" for a number of years. In 1991, he became the Head Custodian at Voris Elementary School. He worked as Head Custodian at a number of elementary schools until 2002. That was the year Jim joined the staff at the Ott Staff Development Center where he remained until his retirement in August 2018. Jim's work ethic was beyond reproach. Numerous administrators and supervisors remarked about how well Jim maintained the cleanliness and appearance of his buildings in their evaluations of Jim. Principal Sandy Mink at Essex Elementary once wrote, "Since he has tackled tasks that have not been addressed for several years, the improved appearance of the building and grounds has been noted by faculty and community members." Julia Mann wrote, "Jim Dyer's work ethic is outstanding. He models respect for his crew and every individual who is at the Ott Staff Development Center." The word "exemplary" was used by a number of supervisors when describing Jim's work performance at their buildings. Former Principal Earl Nay at Leggett Elementary summed it all up when he wrote, "Mr. Dyer is the most professional, industrious and intelligent custodian I have had the privilege to work with." Thank You, James Dyer, for your service to Akron Public Schools!

Image of Bruce Alexander and Helen FireHelen Fire (presented by Bruce Alexander)
Helen Fire graduated from Tallmadge High School in June 1978. In typical "Helen Fire" style, she wasted no time in registering at The University of Akron and starting in on her further education. Helen graduated from The University of Akron in 1983 with a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, along with a second major in Marketing. After graduation, Helen worked several different jobs, including working as an account clerk for the Akron-Summit County Public Library, as a bookkeeper and payroll clerk for the office of Attorneys Genovese & Pullekins, and as a teller at First National Bank. In November of 1984, Helen accepted her first position with Akron Public Schools as an Account Clerk I in the Accounts Payable Office. A mere six months later, Helen was promoted to Account Clerk II in the same office. One year later, in 1986, she was promoted again to Account Clerk Ill. Helen continued to demonstrate excellent knowledge and familiarity with her job duties so that in 1989, she was again promoted, this time to the position of Funded Program Assistant. Helen remained in this position for approximately  seven years, while honing her skills and sharpening her understanding of the subject matter. In March of 1996, Helen's excellent work was again recognized when she was promoted to the administrative position of Supervisor, Budgetary Operations. In this position, Helen's responsibilities were, among others, to create and maintain all budgets, instruct all administrators on finances, adhere to proper timelines for submission of various reports, and establish and maintain open communication with the funded program staff. In 2017, Helen was promoted one more time, to the position of Accounts Payable Supervisor. In this position, Helen was responsible for all the day-to-day activities of the Accounts Payable office. As you can see, Helen's thirty-four-year career with Akron Public Schools describes an encouraging picture of the progression and growth that is almost textbook in its evolution. Young people today would do well to follow her lead in their career paths, whatever they may be. We congratulate Helen on a job extremely well done! Best of luck to you, although you probably won't need it!

Image of Ginger Baylor and Christine MeneerChristine Meneer (presented by Ginger Baylor)
Chris Meneer graduated from Kenmore High School. She continued her education by initially attending Kent State University for two years, then transferring to The University of Akron. In May 1979, she completed her Bachelor's Degree from The University of Akron with a major in Comprehensive Business Education. Chris performed her student teaching in familiar surroundings -- those of Kenmore High School -- instructing her students in Intensive Office Education, Stenography and General Business. Chris began her employment career by working summers as a cheerleading and gymnastics instructor throughout the United States and was a sales clerk for O'Neil's Department Store. She then began working for an employment agency, where she was responsible for all clerical duties. A year or so later, Chris was employed by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company as a secretary in the Development Department. She was responsible for handling correspondence, statistical computations, typing and all other secretarial duties. Working for these employers gave her a personal philosophy which she has maintained throughout her life -- that of the importance of a positive attitude and a healthy self-image. Chris believes that this philosophy not only holds up well over time but translates smoothly into the classroom. In 1979, Chris began her first teaching position at W.G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio. She spent four years teaching Intensive Office Education, Stenography and Typing. Chris was first employed by Akron Public Schools in 1986. She was assigned to serve as a Remedial Instructor for Special Needs children. The following year, she was appointed as a Marketing Education teacher and, in 1988, her assignment was changed to Intensive Office Education. This assignment was particularly enjoyable as it was at Kenmore High School ... her alma mater. She spent several years there, then moved on to Ellet High School, Adult Vocational Services, Central-Hower High School and Garfield High School. In addition to being a skillful teacher, Chris has always been ready to take on additional school duties, such as Newspaper Adviser, School Treasurer, Cheerleading Supervisor, Tennis Coach, A-V Coordinator and Technology Coordinator. Chris will be sorely missed by her principal, her fellow teachers and her students. She has consistently gone above and beyond for them all and richly deserves this new adventure in life.

Image of Lisa Mansfield and Rebecca SmithRebecca Smith (presented by Lisa Mansfield)
Do you know anyone who was born in California, graduated from high school in New Jersey, and settled in Ohio to attend college and become a teacher? Let me introduce you to Rebecca Smith. Rebecca was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey. She found her way to Ohio where she attended Lake Erie College and studied to become a teacher. In 1981, she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Special Education. After doing her student teaching at Essex Elementary, she became a member of Akron Public Schools in 1986. She was assigned to be a special education teacher at Crouse Elementary. From Crouse Elementary, she transferred to Barrett Elementary for 16 years before finishing her career at Mason Elementary. Her former principals wrote many positive comments on her evaluations. Marla Knabel at Barrett School wrote, "Mrs. Smith focuses on meeting the needs of the total child, diligently helping with behavioral issues." Terry Corbin, also at Barrett Elementary wrote, "Mrs. Smith has done an excellent job of developing a program for her students. She has provided a quality program for her students. Her rapport with other staff members has enabled her students to function well at Barrett." Special education children require teachers who are able to meet their specific individual needs on a daily basis. Rebecca has provided the instruction to meet those needs for her children. After going coast to coast, the children of Akron Public Schools were the beneficiaries of her settling in Akron, Ohio, and becoming a dedicated special education teacher. Congratulations, Rebecca Smith! Time to return to making some road trips!!

Image of Tim Miller and David SparkesDavid Sparkes (presented by Tim Miller)
David Sparkes proudly accepted his graduation diploma from Cuyahoga Falls High School. He was now ready to pursue his dream of going to college. He enrolled in The University of Akron to study engineering. He later transferred to Henderson State University where he received a Bachelor in Music Degree in 1964. Two years later in 1966, he earned a Master in Church Music from the College of Church Musicians. Music was David's passion. He worked in churches and synagogues in Akron, Canton and as far away as South Bend, Indiana. He was a church musician and performer. However, he was looking for a part-time job to supplement his income. A friend told him the Akron Public Schools District was looking for bus drivers. This was just what he was looking for because he could still concentrate on his music and be a steady part-time driver. He was hired in 1980. On almost every Service Rating Report, David's attendance is noted. Perfect Attendance! It was rare for him to miss work! You could count on him to be there and do a great job. Supervisor Katheryn Kiehl wrote on his Rating Report, "David
is very dependable, always at work and on schedule on his route." When asked about his favorite memories, David had many. He recalled following protocol by checking all his mirrors before pulling out to drive. He noticed something pink in one of the mirrors. He checked and found a little child had hidden in the wheel well of his bus. His doing the right thing saved a life. He mentioned the positive support he received from his supervisors. His most fulfilling memory was being with the students. It was all about respect! Supervisor Tom Mitchell said it best when he wrote, "Mr. Sparkes provides an outstanding example of professionalism and dedication." Thank You, David Sparkes, for safely transporting the children to and from school. Your conscientious service is greatly appreciated.

Image of Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr., and Charles JonesCharles Jones (presented by Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr.)
Charles began his career with Akron Public Schools in 1984 as a special education teacher at Margaret Park Elementary School for nine years. He then moved to Portage Path Elementary School for seven years, also as a special education teacher. During his teaching career, Charles also coached boys' and girls' tennis teams at Firestone High School, from 1986-2000. In 2000, Charles was promoted to an assistant principal at Jennings Middle School. After two years, he was moved to Roswell Kent Middle School and later moved to Essex Elementary School. During his two years at Essex, Essex was acknowledged as a "School of Promise" for showing growth in Reading and Math. Charles went on to Findley Elementary School where he was principal for five years. He was then selected as principal at Robinson Elementary School for another five years. Since 2016, Charles has led Jennings Middle School through many changes. He has a unique style and concern for all of his students. Recently, an article in the Akron Beacon Journal shared the work Charles has done within the chess club at Jennings. In the 2017-18 school year, the Jennings Chess Team was the first APS school to win the state championship! Charles' love for chess involved teaching his students the skills needed to be successful not only at chess but skills that will carry on throughout their lives. He is a proven leader who cared not only about academics but well beyond to developing the lives of young people. We wish Charles a wonderful retirement and many new pathways for him to follow. Good luck, Charles, and thank you for your leadership with Akron Public Schools.

Robert Gross (not in attendance)
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if we didn't have people who were competent in the trades? Think about how difficult your life would be if suddenly you had a plumbing issue in your home that you couldn't fix. Imagine having a number of homes with plumbing issues that you needed to fix. Are you getting the idea? You are about to enter the world of Robert Gross. Bob graduated from Kenmore High School as a proud Kenmore Cardinal. He joined the Akron Public Schools Maintenance Department as a plumber in the fall of 1988. For about eight years, he worked in the buildings fixing and repairing plumbing issues. He was good at his trade. In 1997, he was promoted to Foreman of the Plumbing Department. He remained in that assignment for more than 20 years. Once again, Bob did a nice job. He was most competent in running the Plumbing Department. One of his major tasks included assigning and scheduling his workers to fix issues in the district's MANY buildings. Another important and related task was finding the right parts needed to fix the issues in the buildings. Most buildings needed unique parts to fix the problem. Somehow he managed to overcome all of these obstacles. Supervisor Ken Phares wrote in Bob's evaluation, "He is to be commended for continuing to respond to these demands." Bob Gross was a man of few words according to his colleagues. He let his work performance speak for himself. In a letter to Bob, Ken Phares wrote, "You have established high standards for yourself and your crew, and you have maintained that level of determination for quite some time. The end results are obvious -- you supervise a very efficient department and, in turn, produce very effective results." Thank You, Bob, for the services you provided in making sure our schools had their plumbing issues under control.
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