Cheryl Retherford- District School Related Employee of the Year

Cheryl Retherford is the embodiment of the Santa Rosa School Related Employee of the Year Award. She plays a vital role in the day-to-day operations of Milton High School. Not only does she fulfill the responsibilities to maintain accurate records and submit timely information for payroll, but she also does so much more to pitch in anywhere help is needed. Perhaps her most critical task is the difficult job of arranging class coverage. With around 2100 students and nearly 150 employees, daily meetings, as well as the COVID epidemic, has made classroom meeting this need, a significant challenge.

Each day, she arrives at work not knowing how many employees will be absent, how many meetings need coverage, and how many substitutes will be available. She sorts out the puzzle, each and every day, with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. She greets every new face to the school and shows them where to go, and be their contact should any need arise.

Daily, she goes and above and beyond the “assigned” duties of the job. Never afraid to be the first person to pitch in, she can be found in the classroom covering for a teacher, she can be found at the at the front desk welcoming students or visitors to campus; she is a constant advocate that promotes the safe, uninterrupted learning of all our students.

Secretary, Debbie Schepper says of Mrs. Retherford, "She is a tireless worker, smart and able to challenge problems. I truly don't know what we would do without her."

Hannah Nichols - Custodial Employee of the Year

Hannah Nichols is a dedicated mother of three children, two boys and one girl. She is the oldest of 8 siblings, having 4 sisters and 3 brothers.

Tragically, Hannah’s mother died when she was only nine years old. Losing her mother at such a young age has given Hannah a deep resolve to always do her best because she knows just how short life can really be.

With only limited financial resources, Hannah went to work for McDonalds at the age of 15 to help support her family. In 2019 Hannah graduated from Milton High School with a 3.7 grade point average while being enrolled in several honor classes.

Hannah worked at McDonalds for three years before deciding she needed a change and took a job with her mother-in-law cleaning houses. It was while she was cleaning houses that she learned she had a passion for getting things clean.

In June of 2021 Hannah began working as a custodian with ABM and Santa Rosa County District Schools. In no time at all, she felt like she had found a second family. Hannah loves her job because of the experiences she gains from it and the bonds she has formed with her coworkers and school staff.

During the summer of 2022, Hannah was promoted to the Lead Custodian position at Pea Ridge Elementary School. Preceding her promotion, Pea Ridge was one of the district’s most challenging schools. In the prior school year, administrators and ABM management regularly scored it at the bottom of all the schools in the county for cleanliness. Beginning with a deep cleaning over the summer break, Hannah and her team immediately addressed many of the school’s custodial service shortfalls. During the deep cleaning, Hannah’s work ethic and dedication to making Pea Ridge look its very best was easily recognizable to everyone around her. Under Hannah’s leadership, the school has made a significant turnaround for the better during the 2022-2023 school year. Hannah and her team have made Pea Ridge a safer and cleaner learning environment for the children, teachers and staff, and it now receives much higher cleanliness ratings.

There is never a day that Hannah questions whether she wants to come to work. Some days at work can be hectic (especially those wall-to-wall vacuuming days), but Hannah wouldn’t trade it for any other job. Hannah loves the support system she has found in working with ABM and Santa Rosa County District Schools. She values the experience she has gained over the past year and a half and knows it will serve her well in all her future endeavors.

Henry Merrill - Substitute Teacher of the Year

Mr. Henry Merrill grew up in Homer, Georgia. After 30 years of service to Michelin, he retired and moved with his wife to Milton, Florida in 2015. Mr. Merrill was interested in returning to work and gave substitute teaching a try. His love for teaching is noticed by the staff and students alike at the many schools across the district he has worked at. He has been described as bringing a “grandfather energy” into the classroom and as “people person”, he loves to be around people. He comes highly requested across the District and is well deserving of the title, Substitute of the Year!

Bagdad Elementary Principal, Daniel Baxley, said, "When serving on the campus of Bagdad Elementary, Mr. Henry is such a breath of fresh air. He always greets everyone with a smile, and it is obvious that he is happy to be here. Not only do students gravitate towards him, our faculty and staff value and appreciate the joy that he brings every day! He is the perfect one to fill in for the day, and it is no surprise that he is the sub of the year."

Nikki Elliott - Transportation Employee of the Year

It is no shock that our employees chose Nikki Elliott to represent Student Transportation of America (STA) for the employee of the year.

There are many things one can say about Nikki Elliott; all the typical loyal, dedicated, and punctual. All these things may be accurate, but with Nikki, one thing sticks out above all others…selflessness.

During any storm, she is the first to offer help. She is the ultimate team player. Anything you ask her to do, she truly goes above and beyond. She has been a driver for over two decades. She started her career in 1999. In all those years, she has touched countless lives. Nikki is now driving our special needs students. Every holiday, she dresses up for her students. She goes the extra mile to bring smiles to everyone’s face.

Often you hear people speak of people having big hearts. Nikki is all heart! Everything she does, it is done with the upmost love and consideration for others. It is not just an honor to know Nikki, but a privilege to work alongside her.

Amy Padgett - Food Service Employee of the Year

Amy started her career with food service at Central High when her children were young. Twenty-three years later, her children have grown, and she still shows the same passion and leadership qualities she displayed from day one. It was evident early on that Amy had leadership qualities. After several years at Central High, she moved to Dixon Intermediate School. Then, when the opportunity came, she was promoted to Pace High Cafeteria Manager, where she has been for the last 6 years.

She is one of the fastest cashiers in the district. Amy is amazing at knowing all her students’ names, both previous and current. With her years of serving our students, it is not uncommon for Amy to cross paths with students who are now adults, and they still remember her as their “lunch lady”. Although this may remind her that she is getting older, Amy loves the recognition from her “other babies” and catching up with them.

During Amy’s tenure as a Food Service Manager, she has developed and empowered many of our staff. She has the qualities of an operational leader. With Amy, she will either make you or break you.

When the pandemic created uncertainty in our program, Amy was one of the first employees to sign up for feeding children in the community. Amy led the highest volume team during the community feeding. At the end of that summer, everyone who worked under her leadership, wanted to transfer to her school in the fall when school returned.

She cares about her coworkers and our students; always willing to go the extra mile to ensure everyone’s needs are met. I have often seen her collect money or pull money from her wallet to help a fellow employee or student.

For Amy Padgett, this isn’t just a job. We are convinced that Amy has a deep appreciation for the service she provides to the students at Pace High.