Last updated: July 10. 2014 4:13PM - 564 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

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A large endowment will ensure those recognized as the best teachers in Clinton City Schools continue to receive a tangible award for their outstanding efforts for at least the next 20 years, likely longer than that.

The Clinton City Board of Education at its May 27 meeting accepted a large endowment from Johnny Morisey to further fund the Jack and Kitty Morisey Teacher of the Year Awards Program, which began in the 2008-09 school year.

“On behalf of the board, thank you for your generous contribution,” CCS Superintendent Stuart Blount stated in a letter to Morisey. “As these funds are invested, it is expected the program can run until at least 2034.”

Jeff Swartz, Teacher of the Year coordinator, sang the praises of the award and Morisey for providing the means to have it.

“I think this program has done a great deal for teacher morale,” Swartz noted. “It goes a long way to show teachers are recognized for what they do every day.”

Each year, a small panel of three to four people at each of the five Clinton City Schools choose three candidates for Teacher of the Year. A separate panel then conducts a round of interviews and selects a winner from those three candidates. Then, even more interviews, with different questions and different judges, are conducted on a citywide scale.

Throughout the process, a committee that includes former teachers, educators and school administrators, as well as local business professionals and “community-minded people” judge the process, Swartz said.

“It is a rigorous judging process,” he said.

Jim Matthews, CCS supporter and friend to the Morisey family, said he is lucky to be a part of the process as a judge. He said Morisey is not out for recognition for himself, nor for his parents, but wants to give back to the Clinton community, specifically toward education.

“He values education and he values this community,” Matthews said. “He’s doing it for that reason.”

Matthews finds it equally rewarding to be part of the judging process.

“A lot of people find it easy to find fault in our schools, but it is such a treat to go to these schools, sit in on these classes and interview these teachers,” Matthews said. “I don’t think money makes the world go around, but this allows them to be recognized and raises the bar. No other school system runs this program as well.”

It was the aim to initially have the Jack and Kitty Morisey Teacher of the Year Awards be a 20-year program. Funds were provided each year, never a large endowment such as this year’s.

“This (donation) will allow the program to go for another 20 years,” Swartz noted. “It may even go on forever.”

To operate the program, $18,000 will be used annually.

That includes $2,000 for each of the five school-level winners for their own use, with an additional $3,000 for the system winner for their own use; and $500 for each of the five school-level winners to use in their classrooms, with an additional $500 for the system winner to use in their classroom.

Additionally, $2,000 will be awarded to the school of the system winner to be used to further education at the school. That could mean utilizing the funds for technology, books or other items that will be long-lasting, not simply for everyday supplies.

Money that was initially given to the system Teacher of the Year who reached the Regional Teacher of the Year level will no longer be awarded.

Swartz, Matthews and others know a lot of the teachers reach into their own pockets to provide for their students and classrooms.

“Now each (winning) teacher gets money for themselves and then to invest in the classroom,” said Matthews.

Matthews is quick to note that Morisey does not want special credit nor acclaim for the donation. He chooses to stay in the background and wants only to give back to the community where he grew up, one he still desires to see thrive. Education, and teachers, are at the heart of that.

Over the years, many have given so that education, recreational and medical facilities can be established in and around the City of Clinton. “People pulled out of their pocket … we have a Wellness Center, a Cancer Center and recreational facilities. Many people have given of themselves to make that happen,” Matthews said.

Morisey continues that local tradition of giving.

“What he has done is recognize that, and acknowledge that,” Matthews remarked. “I’ve never seen anybody step up and do anything like this before.”

“We’re just very grateful for Mr. Morisey’s generosity and his concern for the children of Clinton,” Swartz remarked. “Mr. Morisey is a product of Clinton, a Clinton boy, as he says. He wants to see the community succeed.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.

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