Carol Studdard makes a tearful exit after 28 years from Clay County School Board

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 11/11/20

CLAY COUNTY – School Board member Carol Studdard said her goodbyes last week after serving for the past 28 years.

Beth Clark’s win earlier this month brought Studdard’s …

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Carol Studdard makes a tearful exit after 28 years from Clay County School Board

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – School Board member Carol Studdard said her goodbyes last week after serving for the past 28 years.

Beth Clark’s win earlier this month brought Studdard’s near-three-decade legacy that was cultivated with students and teachers.

“I feel at peace because if I’ve made one little ounce of difference in this school district in the last 28 years, then I’m OK and I have achieved something,” Studdard said during her final school board meeting on Nov. 5. “I’m going to miss y’all. You’re my family and I thank you for everything. I love you all.”

The Nov. 5 school board meeting had a light agenda. The meeting, however, was filled with memories and the tears. Most spoke fondly of Studdard. Clay County Education Association president Vicki Kidwell thanked voters for the passing of the half-cent sales tax, which will be used to fund more than $300 million in repairs and maintenance and another $300 for future construction throughout the district, before speaking to Studdard’s character.

“Tonight, I want to honor Carol,” Kidwell said. “Our schools have benefitted from the hard work of a lot of individuals and Carol is one of them. She’s been a friend of teachers for 28 years. Public service...can be a bruising experience. You don’t often hear when people are happy, but the negative voices are often amplified. I want to amplify all that Carol has done for us. Your compassion for instructional and support staff is steadfast and unwavering. You do the right thing and we appreciate that.”

Kidwell said Studdard’s decisions always reflected her care and humanity for teachers and everyone involved in the district’s education. She presented Studdard with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of CCEA and all the teachers it represents.

Others, including her fellow board members, offered more praise. Superintendent David Broskie presented Studdard with a special plaque celebrating all 28 years of her service, board members Tina Bullock, Ashley Gilhousen and Janice Kerekes said how integral Studdard has been to their experience and their growth as school board members. They thanked her for being a mentor and a friend all these years, and for always being an anchor to the group.

Board member Mary Bolla presented Studdard with 28 flowers and through tears explained the importance of Studdard’s legacy.

“On behalf of the board, we cannot thank you enough,” Studdard said. “If you’ll notice, there are 28 flowers in this bouquet. The purpose of the multi-colors is because you represented all of the children of this county. You have been a mentor to each and every one of us. You have been a friend, a friend to the teachers...the staff, the administration, all of us. We can’t thank you enough. It has been a joy, a pleasure and a true honor to work with you.”

Studdard used time to reminisce. She moved to Clay County in 1979 and her children attended Orange Park Elementary, which at the time, didn’t have a cafeteria. She got involved with a local education advocacy group and helped pitch a cafeteria to the superintendent at the time. It worked and OPE to get a cafeteria built.

She remembered helping to name Tynes Elementary after former superintendent Jesse Tynes, and hearing the Fleming Island High fight song for the first time, which is the same fight song as her beloved University of Alabama. She also remembered mentoring Orange Park Junior High and Grove Park Elementary students, teaching girls in the county what they’re capable of doing.

She recalled when at-the-time support services assistant superintendent Mike Elliott had to move some gopher tortoises off of some land in order to build a new school, and the many, many plays and musicals she saw in the past 28 years.

“I feel and I’ve said this before over the years, the Clay County School District is family and I really mean that,” Studdard said. “For 28 years, you all have been my family away from home. I’ve enjoyed working with you so much and we have some good people in this district. We are so, so fortunate and I’m honored to have worked with six superintendents and numerous board members over the years. Administrative staff, teachers, support staff, children...every morning in my devotion, I pray for you. You will all always be my prayers. I love you all.”

Studdard will have to find something new to do. She said she’s got some yard work to do, some books to read and some home-cooked meals for her husband to make.

Regardless of what she ends up doing, there’s a good chance she’ll still be around in some way, supporting teachers and students like she’s always done.

But for now, Roll Tide, Carol Studdard.

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