Tuesday night’s School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) meeting became emotional as outgoing members Mildred Russell, Gunnar Paulson, and Chair Robert Hyatt said their goodbyes.
Russell made a run for re-election earlier this year but fell short as Diyonne McGraw defeated her to recapture the SBAC District 2 seat.
During her speech, Russell boasted about her time on the board and meeting students, parents, teachers, and staff.
“I will miss attending events that honor students, teachers, and staff,” Russell said. “I have enjoyed that so much, just seeing the fruit of our labor, maybe, indirectly. To my surprise, going to graduations was one of the highlights of my service on the board.”
She went on to wish luck to the new board moving forward. She hopes the new members will improve student outcomes and serve the kids.
Unlike Russell, Paulson and Hyatt didn’t run for re-election after their terms expired this year.
Paulson had held the District 3 seat on the board since 2010.
He gave an emotional speech, thanking former and current school board members, a former football player, Bill Allen, who he coached, an old teammate at UF, Isaac Jones, and his family.
“I look back at the things we have done,” Paulson said. “We talked about salaries. We were 58th in the state and now, in the last three years, we were 21st, 20th, and 24th, so we need to keep at that.”
Hyatt spent 23 years as a high school band director, beginning at Key Wet High School and ending at Winter Haven High School. His last 15 years of teaching were at Duval Fine Arts Academy, where he was named Alachua County’s Teacher of the Year in 2009. He is finishing his second term on the board as Chair and District 5 seat holder.
He thanked his wife, Lou, and his friends.
“It’s been an interesting eight years,” Hyatt said. “It’s been a chance to meet and really work with some great people. One of the first things I learned as a board member was how hard these people in this building work for the benefit of the kids, and this is something I didn’t bring, but it was here before me. I hope I helped push that forward.”
A special presentation was given in the middle of the meeting, led by Superintendent Shane Andrew.
Each leaving board member received a small token of appreciation for their service on the board and work within the school district.
Next Tuesday, three new school board members — McGraw, Sarah Rockwell, and Kay Abbitt — will be sworn onto the SBAC. They will join Vice Chair Tina Certain and member Leanetta McNealy.
This marks the first-ever all-female SBAC board.