By SHERRY DIGMON
The Escambia County school system suffered a double blow with recent announcements by Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew and Escambia County Middle School principal Debbie Bolden.
Both recently submitted their intentions to retire this summer; both were approved at the board of education meeting Tuesday morning, April 28.
With more than 37 years in education, Drew has held several positions – classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, elementary supervisor, ARI Regional Partner (one a one-year loan to the Alabama Department of Education), elementary supervisor / Title I supervisor, director of federal programs / curriculum and instruction, and since October 2014 assistant superintendent.
“I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with amazing people over the past 37 years,” Drew said. “I have worked with eight different superintendents. I greatly appreciate those who have given me the opportunities to be a leader in the county. I have often said that I chose to be a teacher, but I felt I was called to go into administration. Not many people get to do what they love for an entire career, I have been blessed to have been one of them.”
Drew’s retirement is effective July 1.
During the BOE meeting, Superintendent John Knott noted that Drew was retiring as assistant superintendent, adding that he selected her as assistant when he became superintendent.
“She has been invaluable to me and to the system,” Knott said. “Nobody works harder for the students and the schools. I congratulate Mrs. Drew on her retirement and I wish the best for her.”
Bolden has spent much of her 40-year career turning schools around – working in troubled schools in high poverty areas. In Mobile County, she was a classroom teacher, then administrative intern, assistant principal and principal. In 2016, she came home to Atmore to take the principal’s position at ECMS. Bolden has gained local, state and national attention for her leadership at high-minority and high-poverty schools.
Bolden’s retirement is effective July 1.
“The four years I have spent at ECMS have been the most enjoyable and rewarding of my career,” Bolden said. “The school has made remarkable progress during this time, due to the dedicated, hardworking staff and students. With the support of many community members and the Atmore Central Office staff, we have been able to provide our students with opportunities not afforded to other students in the county. I am very proud of everything we have accomplished. I will miss the students, staff, and entire ECMS community.”
In the BOE meeting, board member Coleman Wallace made a comment prior to the vote on personnel.
“We congratulate Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew, but we are also losing a key component in our system with the retirement of Deborah Bolden.”
Referring to some of the personnel items on the agenda, board member Mike Edwards said, “We will miss these folks. We hesitate to approve [their requests], but I guess we will since that’s their wish.”
Personnel items recommended by Knott and approved by the board included the following:
- Stephen Landrum, teacher, W.S. Neal High School, effective May 22, 2020
- Beth Drew, assistant superintendent, Escambia County School System, effective July 1, 2020
- Deborah Bolden, principal, Escambia County Middle School, effective July 1, 2020
- Cynthia Saucer, reading specialist, Huxford Elementary School, effective June 1, 2020
- Marguerite Watson, elementary teacher, Huxford Elementary School, effective June 1, 2020
- Jennifer Hall, counselor, Pollard McCall Junior High School, effective June 1, 2020
- Shirley Manning, office aide, Pollard McCall Junior High School, effective June 1, 2020
- Sheila O. Fountain, speech language pathologist, W.S. Neal Elementary School, effective June 1, 2020
- Kimberly Gafford, elementary teacher, W.S. Neal Elementary School, effective June 1, 2020
- Randall Ray Patterson, science teacher, W.S. Neal Middle School, effective June 1, 2020