Director of Schools Janet Graham says goodbye to the Cumberland County school system this week, closing out a 43-year career in education.
“It’s truly been an honor,” Graham said during the June 25 meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education. “Not many times can people say, ‘If I had it to do over again, I would do it all the same.’”
Graham is a 1974 graduate of Cumberland County High School. She attended Tennessee Technological University where she earned her degree in elementary education and, later, a master’s in administration, supervision and curriculum.
She began her career as a classroom teacher at Crossville Elementary in 1977. She remained there until taking a job with the Tennessee Department of Education’s division of curriculum and instruction in 1986.
She returned to the Cumberland County school system in 1994 as the principal of North Cumberland Elementary and, in 1999, the first principal for the new Stone Elementary School. She earned her education specialist degree in 2003 from TTU.
She moved to Cumberland County High School in 2006 and served as principal there until 2013.
She spent three years as the supervisor of curriculum and instruction at the school system’s central office before being named director of schools in 2016.
Her professional accolades include being named Supervisor of the Year for East Tennessee in 2018 by the Tennessee Principals Association.
She was the Middle Grand Division Principal of the Year in 2009 and a state finalist for the award. She was a state finalists for Principal of the Year in 2003 at the elementary level, a TTU District Outstanding Alumni in 2009 and a Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Educator in 1984.
During Graham’s tenure as director of schools, the school system celebrated construction of a new facility at Crab Orchard Elementary, replacing the original 1972 structure that no longer served the community’s needs. Renovations and upgrades also took place at Cumberland County High School and are underway at Martin Elementary. Several long-term maintenance issues have also been addressed, like roofs at several schools.
The school system implemented a one-to-one technology initiative during her time as director, purchasing a Chromebook for each student in grades 5-12. The 2020-’21 school year represents the final year of that program’s implementation. Cumberland County also launched a Middle College program in partnership with Roane State Community College. The first class of graduates accepted their high school diplomas this week while having also completed an associate degree.
School system salaries also rose during her tenure, with an 8.5% raise for school system personnel from 2017 to 2019.
Teresa Boston, 8th District representative and chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Education, thanked Graham for her many years of service and presented her with an engraved tray.
“With each new challenge Ms. Graham has accepted, she had a plan and how excellence could be achieved for the benefit of the students. She has done so with integrity, vision and determination. She has continually raised the bar with each new assignment, encouraging those around her to meet the challenge,” Boston said.
She thanked Graham for her support as Boston joined the school board.
“I was in awe of the knowledge and information that Mrs. Graham seemed to have stored,” Boston said.
Graham thanked her family, including husband, Mike Graham, who was in the audience at the meeting.
“I thank my family for their unending love, devotion and support, because I’ve had it,” she said. “I have the best partner in the world, who’s been with me know almost 50 years and supported me every step of the way, three wonderful girls, their spouses and some wonderful grandchildren.”
Graham also thanked her “work family” for their support.
“All I want is for them to be taken care of and loved and treated with the dignity and respect they’re due because they work so tirelessly and I’m so proud of them,” she said.
Ina Maxwell was named the new director of schools in May. She assumed her new role July 1.
While not present for the June 25 meeting, Boston also expressed thanks to two other retiring administrators: Rebecca Wood, who has served as the chief academic officer, and Vicki Presson, who has served as the supervisor of special education.
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