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Parents of the Year honored

NATCHEZ — Arcola Sullivan always felt like, as a parent with a skill, she should offer her time to help students in the Natchez-Adams County School District succeed.

Despite knowing she had given back over the course of the year, locally and on the state level, she was still surprised the district had selected her as Parent of the Year for her work with Robert Lewis Middle School.

“When they first called me, I was a bit surprised because I don’t see what I have done differently from others,” Sullivan said. “But I welcome the acknowledgment. It is an honor.”

Prior to her children coming into the school system, Sullivan said she worked with teachers in the district and helped students with homework, especially when the subject was one of her chosen fields of study, computer science and math.

Once her children were enrolled, she has continued to help out whenever needed. One of her focuses this year has been to get other parents involved by serving on the superintendent’s parental involvement board.

“I have been assisting parents in recognizing that the district is open for communication,” Sullivan said. “The administration often is busy, so I’ve acted as a liaison in fielding questions.”

Superintendent Anthony Morris said Sullivan’s work at the middle school and all across the district has been important this year.

“Dr. Sullivan has worked hard at Lewis Middle School to provide activities that would be engaging to the students there,” Morris said. “She has also been supportive of the faculty, staff and administration.

“Dr. Sullivan is an educator at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez Campus, and she understands the support that is needed at all levels and she has provided that to Lewis Middle and other schools.”

After winning on the school level, the Parents of the Year were interviewed by a panel that selected Sullivan.

“Dr. Sullivan has been very involved in PTA and other school activities for a few years,” Morris said. “She has shared information that would benefit other schools as well as providing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.”

Frazier Primary School

Assistant principal Tony Fields said Robert Otkins was selected as Frazier’s Parent of the Year because he was their go-to-guy.

“He is here at the drop of the hat when you call him. I never have to wonder if he is going to come through for the kids,” Fields said. “He is a good leader and good at getting other parents involved.”

Fields said getting fathers involved in the district has been a challenge, but that Otkins, who is a security guard at McLaurin Elementary School, has helped with that.

“With a male presence, I guess it has made a lot of father figures feel more comfortable going to the school,” Fields said. “It means a lot to the kids having their fathers present as well.”

West Primary School

Principal Cindy Idom said Michelle Roberts was selected because she has been a wonderful volunteer this year.

“She is very visible on campus,” Idom said. “She is a wonderful person to work with and will do anything for the children.”

Roberts, who is an assistant manager at Office Depot, has also helped a lot with refreshments and door prizes at PTA meetings.

“She appears to be very concerned with public education and has been a strong, active parent at West,” Idom said.

McLaurin Elementary School

Principal Alice Morrison said Paula Morris was selected at McLaurin because of her dedication to the students.

“Mrs. Morris’s commitment to our students at McLaurin Elementary School is truly remarkable,” Morrison said. “She keeps a smile on her face and always has encouraging words for the students.”

Morris, who is a loan agent at the downtown branch of Concordia Bank, has contributed to purchasing supplies for underprivileged children and also with field trips.

“She does everything with grace and dignity,” Morrison said. “She doesn’t do it to seek her own glory. She does it because she loves the kids and she wants to help the school.”

Morgantown Elementary School

Principal Fred Marsalis said the Rev. Matthew Minor deserved the honor because of his support of both students and staff.

“On teacher appreciation days, he makes sure the teachers receive gifts,” Marsalis said. “He has been very supportive of our programs.”

Minor, who is the assistant pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, is dedicated to education, Marsalis said.

“He has provided teaching incentives, he is president of our PTA, and he has provided and assisted with student incentives,” Marsalis said. “When called on, Rev. Minor is always here.”

Natchez High School

Principal Cleveland Moore Jr. said Lisa Lewis was selected because of her dedication to the football booster club and the Parent Teacher Student Alliance.

“Mrs. Lewis exemplifies the dedication of parents who are concerned about education,” Moore said. “Mrs. Lewis is a working mom and she always assists NHS with functions sponsored by PTSA.

“On a personal note, Mrs. Lewis is very easy to work with and is always willing to do what she can to help in any way here at Natchez High School.”

Fallin Career and Technology Center

Director Linda Grafton said she selected Alfred Banks because of his continued support throughout his children’s high school years.

“If every child in our school had a daddy like Mr. Banks, they would be much better off,” Grafton said. “He is a wonderful man who cares about his children and the other children in the school, who are his children’s friends.”

Banks, who is retired from the post office, also substitute teaches at Fallin. Grafton said even though children say they want parents to back off in high school, it does the student a lot of good if the parent does not.

“Alfred, their son, is a good kid anyway, but it helps knowing mom and dad are here looking over his shoulder,” Grafton said. “I know that parent involvement makes such a difference with high school students.”

Central Alternative School

Principal Edward Reed said Viola Williams was selected as the Parent of the Year, even though she is a grandparent.

“We basically came to a consensus that she would represent the type of grass roots grandparent who gets involved in the school and takes extra steps in looking after the grandkids,” Reed said. “A lot of these kids live with their grandmothers.

“She represents the modern type care giving that exists today as far as some students are concerned.”