SOSD Names District Employees of the Year Award Winners

Dr. Randy Grierson, Superintendent Dr. Tony McGee, Ra'mon Forbes

Dr. Randy Grierson and Mr. Ra'mon Forbes were named as 2024 SOSD Administrators of the Year at the SOSD annual Employee Awards of Excellence in May. Pictured: Dr. Randy Grierson, 2023-2024 Armstrong Assistant Principal; Dr. Tony McGee, Superintendent; Ra'mon Forbes, 2023-2024 Armstrong Principal.

In mid-May, the Starkville Oktibbeha School District honored the best of the best among the administrative, teaching and support staff at the annual Employee Awards of Excellence. During the luncheon held at Blueberry Peace Farm in Starkville, district administration announced the district-wide Employee of the Year award winners for the 2023-2024 school year. Principals from each school also recognized outstanding school-level staff. The luncheon was presented in partnership with Renasant Bank and the Starkville Foundation for Public Education.


2024 SOSD Teacher of the Year: Denesha Howell

Teacher of the Year: Denesha HowellDenesha Howell serves as an 8th grade math teacher at Armstrong Junior High School and was named the district's 2024 Teacher of the Year. 

"Ms. Howell truly has a heart for her students and never places limits on their abilities," said Ra'mon Forbes, 2023-2024 principal at Armstrong Junior High School. "If there is a student in her room who is struggling, she works hard to meet them where they are and structure learning to support their needs. Her ability to connect with her students and coworkers is beautiful. She is such a positive person that always pushes through adversity and challenges that can come with working within education. She cares; she’s dedicated, and she grows students in academics and outside of academics."

Ms. Howell serves as the lead for the Armstrong Math Department, a role which allows her to share her experience in classroom management and student engagement with other teachers. Whether it is calling "team meetings" to remind students of expectations or providing classroom snacks as incentives, she works to make sure students buy in to the vision for excellence at AJHS. In addition, administrators and peers in the school recognize Ms. Howell's willingness to go above and beyond. Mr. Forbes shared how she often meets with parents outside of school hours to make sure they are engaged as partners in their child's learning. When students are struggling or if inclusion students need extra help, Ms. Howell is often willing to use her planning period to meet with them one on one.

As the SOSD Teacher of the Year, Ms. Howell will also submit a nomination packet for Mississippi's Teacher of the Year in January 2025.


2024 SOSD Non-Certified/Classified Personnel of the Year: Felicia Frazier

Non Certified Personnel of the Year: Felicia FrazierFelicia Frazier serves as the Office Manager at Emerson Preschool, the district's fee-based preschool and PreK facility serving families with children from birth to four years old. Ms. Frazier was named the district's 2024 Non-Certified/Classified Personnel of the Year.

"She is often the first and last smiling face many of our parents and children see on a daily basis," said Mary Coleman, 2023-2024 Emerson Preschool Director. "She has the magic touch to calm any child that is upset, and every child looks for her on their way out of the building at the end of the day."

Ms. Coleman also shared that Ms. Frazier is never shy about lending a hand wherever it's needed in the facility, whether it's in the kitchen or in a classroom. On days when staff is short-handed, she often volunteers to take up the slack to be sure students and families have the best experience.


2024 SOSD Certified Support Personnel of the Year: Heather Summerlin

Certified Personnel of the Year: Heather SummerlinHeather Summerlin serves as School Nurse at Sudduth Elementary where she helps to ensure students stay healthy during the school day and provides gentle care when accidents happen or sickness comes on. She was named the district's 2024 Certified Support Personnel of the Year.

"Her bedside manner with every child is calm and kind," said Dr. Morgan Abraham, principal at Sudduth. "Her confidence with parents is obvious, and her gentle nature helps put them at ease when a child is sick. Even when delivering news of a sick or injured child, Nurse Heather is calm and thorough in communication and follow through."

Although working as a school nurse for some of our youngest Yellow Jackets can be overwhelming at times, Dr. Abraham shared that Ms. Summerlin remains calm and kind in every scenario, providing positive and excellent care. When a student broke her arm at school, Ms. Summerlin was able to calmly assess the injury, provide care, calmly address parent concerns and even provide distractions for the child until parents arrived.

In addition to helping students, Ms. Summerlin also works to take care of staff medical needs when she can. Each day, she meets patients, whether students or staff, with the same respect and care she, as a parent, wants for her own child.


2024 SOSD New Teacher of the Year: Bailey Muchow

New Teacher of the Year: Bailey MuchoBailey Muchow serves as a 10th grade/Algebra I teacher at Starkville High School. In her first year of teaching, Ms. Muchow has tackled a state-assessed subject area with a commitment to excellence. She was named the district's 2024 New Teacher of the Year.

"We really challenged her as a new teacher by giving her 10th grade Algebra I students," Dr. Darein Spann, 2023-2024 SHS principal shared. "These are the students who took Foundations of Algebra last year which means they were still a little behind on skills. Ms. Muchow stood the test of time, and her students' growth showed with each benchmark."

Ms. Muchow worked closely with Xavier Perkins, a veteran teacher mentor, to learn and grow as a teacher and in her classroom management approach so that students could succeed. She was also willing to collaborate with other teachers when needed to provide creative learning experiences.


2024 SOSD Outstanding Parent of the Year: Dr. Kelsey Crane

Outstanding Parent of the Year: Dr. Kelsey CraneAs a parent volunteer at West Elementary School, Dr. Kelsey Crane spearheaded the creation of a school garden and outdoor classroom on the campus. Repurposing space that was once an athletic field, Dr. Crane met with staff to determine creative ideas and needs. She also worked with community business partners, other parent volunteers and Mississippi State University to secure funding as well as implement the design. She was named the district's 2024 Outstanding Parent of the Year.

"The school garden is the most amazing thing any parent has ever done for our school," said Gabrielle Mills, 2023-2024 West Elementary principal. "She strives to help teachers and students understand that learning takes place in all areas - not just in the classroom."

Dr. Crane created the outdoor learning environment to be used for the entire campus and Sturgis community. She met with staff to find out grade-level standards and discuss ways to incorporate hands-on learning with outdoor garden activities. She worked with MSU and multiple other businesses to build the garden area from start to finish. In addition, she coordinated volunteers for planting, building, and painting. She also spearheaded the effort to ask community members to donate money for building picnic tables and benches for the students so they can enjoy the area.

As the SOSD Outstanding Parent of the Year, Dr. Crane will also submit a nomination packet for Mississippi's Teacher of the Year in January 2025.


2024 SOSD Administrators of the Year: Ra'mon Forbes and Dr. Randy Grierson

Administrators of the Year: Ramon Forbes and Randy GriersonRa'mon Forbes completed his fourth year as the principal at Armstrong Junior High School in May and Dr. Randy Grierson completed his first year as Assistant Principal. SOSD Superintendent, Dr. Tony McGee, named both as Administrators of the Year for the 2023-2024 school year.

"Mr. Forbes and Dr. Grierson have really changed the culture of Armstrong," said McGee. "I consistently receive a lot of good comments from parents that their children have really enjoyed their time at AJHS and how the administrative team has been receptive and supportive -- how they've gone above and beyond to check on their children to make sure they feel safe, secure and ready to learn."

Hearing from parents isn't the only reason the duo of Forbes and Grierson earned the honor of Administrators of the Year. McGee also shared that he hears from teachers and staff about the positive culture and work environment that's been created in just the one year the two men have worked together. He hears that teachers enjoy being there and coming to work, and they notice that students show up every day ready to work and learn. Eighth grade can be a pivotal year for students, and McGee believes having two strong male leaders like Forbes and Grierson has really helped to set the tone for expectations.

"At the beginning of the year, they gelled fairly quickly," McGee shared. "They both have a love for children. Both have a vision for the school and a commitment to excellence for our boys and girls. You know, leadership matters. When you talk about a leader in a building, Armstrong has been blessed with two really exceptional leaders this year."

In addition to announcing our district-level winners, the Starkville Oktibbeha School District's 2024 Employee Awards of Excellence celebrated more than 60 staff award-winners along with 17 retiring staff members.

"There is no better way to cap off a school year than to recognize some of the most outstanding members of our team," Dr. Tony McGee said. "Our district is fortunate to have so many dedicated teachers and staff who work together to create excellent learning experiences for our boys and girls."