Wrapping it up… Gardenhour tying up loose ends before stepping down

Published 4:38 pm Monday, May 18, 2020

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On June 30, 2020, Dr. Corey Gardenhour will be leaving his post as the Director of Elizabethton City Schools after serving the community for 13 years at the helm.
Even though it will be a tough move, Gardenhour is pleased with the cooperation that he has received from his administration and local leaders who have worked hand in hand with Gardenhour for his tenure.
“I guess that there is a great sense of pride in what we have collectively accomplished,” Gardenhour said. “I will miss my friends and colleagues that I have worked with in the city and the school system.
“Many people do not see how closely we work together.  We have been a great team.  I will miss working with our board on the many items and issues you encounter when taking care of this many children and families.  I will miss the closeness of our community. It is fantastic!”
There have been tasks and improvements that have come under Gardenhour’s leadership. The director was asked out of all that has been accomplished, what three things stood out the most in his mind.
“It has been the pleasure of my life to serve families in Elizabethton for more than a decade.  I have made many friendships that I will cherish.  One of my biggest achievements was keeping students safe while on my watch,” stated Gardenhour.
“We put a great deal of effort into making our schools safe for students.  Our staff deserves all the credit for coming to work with a mindset that created a culture of belonging and support.
“Another achievement was finishing many projects completed at EHS,” continued Gardenhour. “We still have more to go, but the upgrades to safety, functional space and the learning environment have really transformed the experience for our students.
“They are very proud of their school!
“My final achievement I am most proud of is the way we have recruited and retained quality employees.  Every student has someone who loves them dearly and is supportive of their learning.”
Dr. Gardenhour is not stepping away from education as he will take over as the new principal at Ross Robinson Middle School in Kingsport. The decision was a tough one to make but family was the number one priority Gardenhour was looking at in making the decision.
“I have lost my grandmother and grandfather in the last year and my Dad has been very ill with cancer,” Gardenhour said. “This has brought things into perspective for me a bit.
“I felt it was important to have my family on the same schedule and living in the same place. It was time. I am going to make up for lost time while my children are still at home.
“I think that most parents understand that. Professionally, I will be doing what I love which is working with children. I am looking forward to it.”
Gardenhour said that the next superintendent will be inheriting a great school system that has many pro’s when looking at the overall picture.
Some of the ones mentioned by the school director were the Elizabethton community, faith, school system staff, and the students.
And while the pros are many, Gardenhour said there were some important pieces of advice that he would also like to pass along to the new director about the school system.
“I would pass along that he/she should listen to staff and make time to see their amazing work,” Gardenhour said. “I would remind them to be truthful and stand for what is right because our community values that.
“Lastly, to work with our Mayor, City Manager, Board of Education, and City Council to help them work as a team. They are a great team!”
Gardenhour definitely feels that he is leaving the Elizabethton City School system in better shape than when he arrived.
“Yes, we have completed about 60 projects during my tenure. We have moved Elizabethton City Schools into the national spotlight several times.  That has taken quite a bit of work, but our folks have risen to the challenge,” Gardenhour stated.
Not only has Gardenhour been on the giving end of leading the school system, but he also has received several valuable lessons that he will keep close to his heart as he moves forward.
“The lessons learned are that children are amazing and that we should not ever count them out,” Gardenhour commented. “I have had the happiest of surprises in our grocery stores when students come up to me and tell me how successful they have been.
“I have realized that school is only 13 years. Students have 80 more to live. I have learned the value of good friendships.”
One memory that Gardenhour will hold onto and ponder on as he goes into the future was his decision to choose Milligan College which will soon be Milligan University.
“At Milligan, you learn that serving others is where your focus should be. You learn to wait for His calling and timing. If I ever move that direction again it would be based on a calling I had to serve that group of students and their families,” said Gardenhour.
In closing, the director wished to thank some people that he had the pleasure of working with during his time.
“I would like to thank a few community members like Susan Peters, Catherine Armstrong, and Pearl Smith, for their constant cards and calls of encouragement,” Gardenhour stated. “Joe and Hope LaPorte, Sam and Marlo LaPorte, Chris, Steve, and their families for the many times you have reached out to help our school system.
“Curt Alexander for the many visits listening to my vision for new projects and his friendship. Our City Council for trying hard to fulfill every need we had for students.
“Rita and Curtis Booher and their family, Grover May, Phil Isaacs, Tyler Fleming, and Amy and Tim Tapp for being prayer support,” continued Gardenhour. “Dwayne Taylor for his example of Christian leadership at our hospital.
“Bill Greer, Garland Young, Mark Fox, and Angela Hilton-Prilhart for partnering with Elizabethton students. Those many churches, businesses, community agencies, and first responders and which gave money and time to support our children.
“Lastly, thank you to faculty, staff, parents, students, and our community for all of your support!  I have been truly blessed to be a Cyclone and to be a part of the lives of our children.  I am now praying for our next leader.  I hope you will give him or her the same love and support you have given me,” Dr. Gardenhour added.
A new director is to be named during the June school board meeting so that they can take over when the new physical year begins on July 1, 2020.

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