Patrick Strong, Shalimar ES, Named Educational Support Professional of the Year

Patrick Strong, Shalimar Elementary School was named the Educational Support Professional of the Year (ESPY) at the annual ESPY Breakfast on Friday, January 9th, 2015.  Michael Mitchell, Pryor Middle School, and Connie Wilson, Elliott Point Elementary School, were named an Educational Support Professional of the Year runners-up. (Pictured above, left to right: Patrick Strong, Connie Wilson, and Michael Mitchell.)

Patrick Strong, Shalimar Elementary School, Educational Support Professional of the Year

Born and raised in Valparaiso, FL, Patrick attended Valparaiso Elementary and Lewis Jr High School.  He is a graduate of Niceville High School, “Class of 82.”  Upon graduation, he started his career as a Wastewater Operator at Niceville, Valparaiso, Okaloosa County Regional Sewer Board (NVOC) and continued his career as Operations Manager of Florida Community Services (FCS) in South Walton County.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the NVOC, a twenty seven year commitment.  Patrick also owned It’s a Pizza Deli, a one hundred seat pizza and sub shop for about three years.

After his nine year career as Operations Manager with FCS, he accepted the position as director of First Valparaiso Child Development Center (FVCDC) at First Baptist Church of Valparaiso.  After serving three years as director of FVCDC, he accepted a job as a classroom assistant in an EBD class at Shalimar Elementary, and then accepted the job of Custodian 1 at Shalimar Elementary School. 

At Shalimar Elementary School his job responsibilities include opening the school in the morning, cleaning classrooms and the café, performing safety checks, ensuring the A/C is operational, responding to urgent technology needs, monitoring students,  coordinating furniture and set-up with new teachers and classrooms, and leading all drills.  Patrick is also CPI-trained to respond to urgent student issues.    

“Mr. Strong serves formally as our daytime custodian, but it is what he does to go beyond full measure on behalf of our students and staff that I believe earned him this designation by his colleagues,” said Shalimar Elementary School Principal, Jon Williams.  “He understands that learning is our priority and he does his best to be sure nothing gets in the way of our mission to have all students reach their academic potential.  He is meticulous about how our school runs from the moment he steps inside to the moment he leaves.  While it would be acceptable to just perform his duties well, which he does, Patrick goes even further by being a great model to our students regarding many of the character traits we strive to instill in them.  He can be counted on the do the right thing for our school, its students and staff.”

Throughout his service in the Okaloosa County School District, Patrick has also served as secretary-treasurer of Okaloosa County Educational Support Professional Education Association (OCESPA) for two years, vice-president for a little less than two years, and as president for the past six years. 

During his service as OCESPA President, Patrick has had the opportunity to serve his fellow employees and lead many initiatives for the good of Okaloosa Schools and its employees and students.  He has also served in many roles for the Florida Education Association and Goodhope Baptist Church in Escambia Farms. 

Patrick resides in Baker with his wife, Nancy, of almost 20 years, and two children, Patrick, Jr. and Victoria Rose.

Michael Mitchell, Pryor Middle School, Educational Support Professional of the Year Runner - Up

Mitchell has been with the Okaloosa County School District for 14 years and serves as Pryor’s Janitor.  He is responsible for setting up events and keeping the school clean.

Connie Wilson, Elliott Point Elementary School, Educational Support Professional of the Year Runner - Up

Wilson has been with the school district for 13 years and serves as Elliott Point’s Physical Education Assistant.  She is responsible for helping prepare lessons, teaching six classes of 40 – 100 students at a time, managing fund raisers, monitoring the lunch room, and directing the AAA Safety Patrol and Archery Club.

The Educational Support Professional of the Year is evaluated upon the following criteria:

  • Extends himself/herself beyond basic required duties by displaying initiative and creativity;
  • Earns respect and admiration of colleagues and the community;
  • Demonstrates exceptional skill and dedication on the job;
  • Displays exemplary leadership abilities through active participation in school or district and community activities and/or by making decisions and delegating effectively and diplomatically;
  • Exhibits good interpersonal skills;
  • Utilizes in-service and/or training to consistently improve and develop skills;
  • Demonstrates exemplary interpersonal skills in communication with students, families, and community members, as well as collaboration with other professionals; and
  • Contributes to the students, school, and district he/she serves in the following manner:
    • Enhances student learning through participation in literacy based activities,
    • Creates positive relationships with parents, students, coworkers, and community members,
    • Makes school safer, healthier and more attractive;

Congratulations to all of the Okaloosa County School Educational Support Professionals of the Year:

Shelia Cheek – Antioch ES
Ernest Martin – Baker School
Jamie Blair – Bay Area Office
Debbie Hamilton – Bluewater ES
Cheryle Foraker – Bob Sikes ES
Linda Bedsole – Bruner MS
Cindy Griffith – Carver Hill Administrative Complex
Deborah Lee Hughes – Choctawhatchee HS
Barbara Nystrom – CHOICE HS & Technical Center
Andrew Black – Crestview HS
Lori Parker – Davidson MS
Sandy Santos – Destin ES
Bertilda Menard – Destin MS
Charles Foster Carson – Edge ES
Jill Loesser – Edwins ES
Donna Konefal – Eglin ES
Luther E. Smith – Florosa ES
Pete Pinkert – Fort Walton Beach HS
Karen Searle – Kenwood ES
Mandy S Zessin – Laurel Hill School
Brandy Jones – Lewis School
Kimberly Inness – Longwood ES
Kevin Van Dyke – Maintenance North
Jeff Christy – Maintenance Central
Gary Crabtree – Maintenance South
Gary Wayne Kelly – Maintenance Support and Grounds
Starla Taylor – Mary Esther ES
Tricia Lowdermilk – Meigs MS
Melissa Wood – Niceville HS
Shante Person – Northwood ES
F. Juli-Anna Davis – Nutrition Center
Trulie Gander – Okaloosa STEM Academy
Rachel A. Money – Plew ES
Jeri Tobias – Richbourg School
Beth Bryant – Riverside ES
Dale L. Ward – Ruckel MS
Gloria Brannon – Shoal River MS
Mike Callahan – Silver Sands School
Barbara Stephens – Southside Center
Elli Bruner –Transportation Central
Gloria Fortner – Transportation North
Diane Langlois – Transportation South
Debbie Holland – Walker ES
Olga Vasquez – Wright ES

Special thanks and appreciation to the following for their contributions to this year’s event:

Bay Area Awards
Bippy’s Frozen Yogurt – Free yogurt
Corner Café , Bridget Spolski
Costa Enterprises – McDonald’s Gift Basket
Edible Arrangements
Jimmie Beavers – Beavers, Inc, dba, Arby’s – Free meal a week for a year
Melissa Thrush Campaign
Okaloosa County Educational Support Professional Association
Okaloosa County Public School Foundation
Papa Murphy’s – Free pizza
School District Printing Services

This year’s Educational Support Professionals of the Year Committee members were:

Lorin Lewis, Pryor MS, Bookkeeper, 2014 Educational Support Professional of the Year
Melissa Thrush, School Board Member, District 5
Debbie Buchanan, President, Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation
Andrea Waters, Secretary, CHOICE HS & Technical Center, Chair of Selection Committee
Iris Deleon, ESL Interpreter, Longwood ES
Val Moreland, Retired, Classroom Assistant
Lindga Pigford, Retired, School Bus Driver

To see a photo gallery of the announcement of the finalists and the awards breakfast, please visit the OCSD Facebook page.