A large number of educators in Macon County are products of the school system themselves. In a survey sent to all 650 Macon County school system employees, 51 employees responded verifying that while they are currently employed in the district, they also attended school in the district.
The voluntary survey was sent via email to all 650 employees and asked if the employee had attended school in Macon County before becoming employed. In addition to having a love and dedication to educating the future generations, educators who are also products of the school system have an extra invested interest in the community because they are connected here.
“I think it is a positive tribute to the school system to have so many employees that made the decision to return here after going off and getting their education,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Jim Duncan. “I think it is really good for the community and says a lot about the education here. These people wanted to return to Macon County in hopes of giving future generations the same quality education they received here.”
Employees who are also products of the school system were found to range from first year teachers to those who have worked in Macon County for nearly 35 years. All three high schools in the district, Franklin, Nantahala and Highlands, each had graduates who returned to Macon County to work in the school system.
“The number of employees that choose to return to the Macon County school system is indicative of the quality education and positive experience that each employee has received,” said Macon County schools director of personnel Dan Moore. “These individuals choose to contribute to our community through their vital service as educators.”
The survey revealed that each of the 11 schools in the district have employees who are also graduates of the school system. Franklin High School has the highest number of respondents with 15 employees who once attended school in Macon County and are now employed by the district. Mountain View Intermediate has seven, East Franklin has five, Macon Middle School, South Macon and Cartoogechaye each have four, Macon Early College, Union Academy, Iotla Valley, and Nantahala each have two, Highlands has one and the Central Office has three. (While there are likely more employees who are also products of the school system, these totals reflect those who participated in the survey.)
Of the 51 individuals who participated in the survey, 35 employees are classroom teachers, eight are staff members and six are administrators.
With 11 schools in the district, six principals and vice principals participated in the survey and are products of Macon County schools including Todd Gibbs, principal of Macon Early College, Chris Baldwin, current principal of Franklin High School and future superintendent of the school system, Shirley Parks, principal of East Franklin Elementary School, Pam Cabe, assistant principal of Franklin High School, Mark Sutton, principal of Mountain View Intermediate, and Collette Lovell, principal of Mountain View Intermediate.
One of the survey questions asked participants if they have family who also work for Macon County schools. To help with the data collection, we wanted to know if there were in fact other employees in the school system who were not able to complete the survey. Of the 51 people who responded, 26 said that they have family currently working in the school system, with several people saying that they come from a family who have historically been employees of Macon County schools.
Cathy Tippett, who has worked as a kindergarten teacher at South Macon for 30 years graduated from Franklin High School in 1971. Before graduating from FHS, Tippett attended East Franklin Elementary School. In addition to herself, Tippett has a daughter-in-law who teaches South Macon Elementary, a son who works with the school's IT department and a daughter who works as a school nurse at both East Franklin and Iotla Valley.
Mountain View Intermediate principal Mark Sutton has been employed with Macon County for 13 years. Sutton attended East Franklin, then Macon Middle School and then Franklin High School where he graduated in 1996. “I had a great desire to return to Macon County schools and give back to the community that gave so much to me,” said Sutton. “To me, Macon County is the perfect place to raise a family and work.”
Both of Sutton's parents work for Macon County schools as well. Sutton's father works for the Franklin High School Driver's Education Program and his mother is a guidance counselor at South Macon Elementary.
Individuals who work for Macon County schools often take on dual roles in the community. According to our survey, several of the employees who attend school in Macon County, returned to not only teach, but to also coach.
Bob Kuppers has taught social studies at Franklin High School since 2001 and is also an assistant coach for the football team. Kuppers attended Macon County schools from 1960 through 1971 when he graduated from Franklin High School.
“I returned to Macon County after 25 years in the Navy, because I wanted to coach football and teach at FHS,” said Kuppers. “I wanted to do this because if I had any professional success in the U.S. Navy, it was all built upon the public education that I received in the Macon County schools. I wanted to be a part of an organization that had given so much to me and to give something back to the community that had shaped my life.”
Of those who responded, Judy Bell is one of the longest serving teachers at 33 years. Bell has worked for Macon County schools for 33 years and currently teaches fifth grade social studies at Mountain View Intermediate School. Bell attended the former Otto Elementary School until entering Franklin High School, where she graduated from in 1977. While at FHS, Bell played varsity basketball and softball. “This experience helped me earn a spot on the softball team at WCU,” said Bell. “I was the first girl to play softball on the college level.”
Like Kuppers, Bell returned to Macon County in hopes of teaching and coaching. “After college graduation, I chose to return to Franklin hoping to teach and coach at the FHS,” said Bell. “My dream came true. I was in the basketball program at FHS for eight years and I was head softball coach for 13 years, earning seven conference titles and I was named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year nine times.”
Bell also wanted to return to Macon County to raise her family in the same environment that she grew up in. “My family has been in the area for eight generations and I felt connected to the area and wanted to raise my family in the same cultural area that I grew up in,” she said. “Terry Bell is my first cousin who has worked in the Macon County Schools until retirement. Terry still works in conjunction with the school system. I have a nephew, Chris Bell, who is doing his student teaching at FHS. He hopes to remain in the area also.”
Being employed with the Macon County School System for more than three decades, Bell believes that she is connected to countless “products” of the school system.
“I feel that I have too many ‘products’ that work in the Macon County School System. I have countless students that teach in the system and also a number of teacher/coaches that I have taught or coached,” said Bell. “Macon County has been good to me and I feel that the community is a wonderful place to raise children today.”
Some teachers in Macon County have climbed the ranks throughout their employment. Diane Raxter is a teacher at Nantahala School, where she has been employed for more than 15 years.
“I began as a bus driver/custodian and later moved on to a teachers assistant position where I worked over 12 years, and have just recently moved into an interim teaching position,” said Raxter. “I attended Nantahala School kindergarten through grade 10. I quit school in the 10th grade and later went back to get my GED, Associates of Arts, and Bachelors degree. I am now actually teaching in the same ‘physical’ classroom that I attended kindergarten in!”
Raxter's niece, Kristen Lynch is a guidance counselor at Macon Middle School. “I actually had the pleasure of being her assistant in her first teaching assignment which was as a second and third grade teacher at Nantahala,” said Raxter. “Kristen also is a product of Nantahala School.”
Macon County Schools' central office has several employees who are considered products of the school system. Angela Cook, who has worked for Macon County for 18 and a half years and currently serves as the district's Finance Director, graduated from Franklin High School in 1986. According to Cook, she returned to Macon County to give back to her community.
In addition to the district employees who either returned to or stayed in Macon County to work for the school system, the entire Board of Education for Macon County is comprised of individuals who are products of the school system. All five members, Tommy Cabe, Stephanie McCall, Jim Breedlove, Melissa Evans, and Gary Shields, attended school in Macon County.
“I think it is pretty unusual to have a complete board made up of all individuals who are products of the system,” said Duncan. “Macon County has an influx of people relocating here the from the South and the North, so to have all members who are from here is great. They know the personnel and they know how the school system works.”
Board member Tommy Cabe attended school in Macon County from 1949 until 1961 when he graduated from Franklin High School. “After 10 years in the Navy, my wife decided we would only educate our children in Macon County,” said Cabe.
Cabe's wife also works for the Macon County School System.
Shields attended Cartoogechaye Elementary for first through eighth grade and then attended his ninth grade year at Franklin High School.
Shields, who served as the principal of Franklin High School from 1988 to June of 2010, not only now serves on the Board of Education, but spent 29 years as an employee of Macon County Schools. He has worked at Franklin High School, the former Union Elementary and Nantahala School.