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School chief to retire
96Z4 KEITH PORTER
Keith Porter

Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter has announced plans to retire after more than 30 years with the system.

After much thought and prayer, I have decided to retire at the conclusion of this school year, on May 31, 2014, Porter said in a Dec. 3 letter to the school board.

I went into education many years ago to serve children and to try to make a difference in their lives, but in the end, they made much more of a difference in my life than I did in theirs.

The board of education voted to accept Porters resignation at its regularly scheduled meeting held Monday.

During his 30-year tenure, Porter served six years as a teacher at DCHS; nine years as assistant principal then principal at Dawson County Middle, followed by seven years in curriculum instruction, before serving as associate superintendent for three years, then superintendent.

Porter began serving as superintendent in 2009 when then-superintendent Nicky Gilleland retired.

I first met Keith when I was coaching him on the 8th grade boys basketball team, Gilleland said. Even as a young man, there was something about him, his work habits, his concern for other people. He always wanted to do his best.

School Board Chair Doris Cook said Porters shoes will be hard to fill.

He has been a superintendent with some of the worst conditions economically, but he always looked at what was best for our teachers and children what would have the least impact on them, she said.

Right man for the time

Porter led the school system through difficult state budget cuts, rising health insurance costs, teacher and administrative layoffs, furlough days, and the purchase of two new administrative buildings and the subsequent move of the boards offices.

He looked at each situation with an eye toward whats best for the system ..., then reflected concern for people losing their jobs, Gilleland said. He made decisions on what would have the least impact on instruction. Childrens education had to be the first priority. He was the right man for the time, and he did it with a compassionate heart.

Porter earned his bachelors degree in education from the University of Georgia, and a masters degree at North Georgia College & State University.

As a boy, Keith used to help his grandmother grade papers, Vicki Porter, Keith Porters mother, said. Hattie Grace Wallace, Porters grandmother, taught first grade in Dawson County for 39 years. I think she inspired him, his mother said.

School Board Member Will Wade said Porter is an educators educator.

One would always want to aspire to be like Keith, Wade said. Hes one of the reasons I decided to serve as a board member. ... Children will sorely miss his leadership, and while we can replace the role of superintendent, we can never replace Keith Porter.

Lloyd Harben, who was the last elected Dawson County school superintendent, gave Porter his first job as a principal of Dawson County Middle School.

His knowledge, his ability, his personality, and most of all his love and care for the children is what made him a good superintendent, Harben said. He wanted to make sure Dawson County students were getting the best possible education.

Harben noted that Porters mother served as the secretary at Robinson Elementary.

The whole family is dedicated to education, he said. They put 150 percent into everything they do and go way beyond the call of duty.

Board Member Roger Slaton said Dawson Countys school system is recognized across the state because of Porter.

Our school system has been managed by one of the finest young men in the educational system in Georgia, Slaton said. He is no doubt the most knowledgeable, passionate person Ive ever seen. Every decision he makes is a prayerful decision. He is an excellent manager and a close personal friend.

Education noble profession

Porter reflected on his accomplishments with the school system.

To see the students that I taught and coached becoming leaders in all employment fields as well as good parents and community members, and to know that I could impact them in some small way, is more than I could have dreamed, he said. My parents always stressed education and then provided me the means to get through school. I depend on them for advice to this day. My wife and children have been great. They have subverted their plans many times to make allowances for my schedule.

Porter believes that education is a noble profession.

It is truly possible to make a difference in the lives of students and impact the future through the students we teach, he said. I would not have encouraged my daughter to become a teacher if I had not thought that the future of education is bright and the work is worthy.

In January, the school board expects to reach an agreement on the initial steps to start the search process, Porter said. The board may elect to work independently or with a search firm to determine timelines and interview structure.

In other action taken by the board:

Approved pursuing eight maintenance projects using ELOST dollars including: roof replacements at Blacks Mill Elementary and Riverview Middle School; at DCHS roof repairs, multi-use facility, greenhouse and gym curtain; construction of a shade structure at Riverview Elementary, and furniture and equipment at several school.

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