Many school districts in Central Florida are still looking to fill vacancies for important roles like teaching and bus driving.
We’re highlighting two long-standing employees for Marion County Public Schools who work behind the scenes to make sure students get the education they need.
“Does this look like the help desk?”
Confidential secretary Lana Phillips laughed as she read the comedic plate on her desk.
If you work at Marion County Public Schools, you’re probably thinking ‘yes.’ That’s because Phillips does it all. Substitute scheduling, bookkeeping, accounting, purchasing and monthly reports are just a few of her duties.
“It’s a busy job. There’s a lot of things that go into being a school secretary,” said Phillips.
Phillips has been working for the Marion County Public School district for more than 51 years. She’s worked as a teacher’s assistant, social worker and registrar during her career. Phillips is a mom of three — they’re all grown up now with kids of their own. Family photos are displayed on her desk.
“My kids went to some of the schools I’ve worked in. It was stressful. Every time I heard the assistant principal holler “Michael” I thought they were talking about one of my kids. But it helped with keeping constant communication with their teachers and knowing where they stood in school,” said Phillips.
As the new school year approaches, Phillips is encouraging more people to consider a career in public school education.
“The salaries are a lot better than they were when I first started, and you have the opportunity to work during the school year and have summer off with your kids,” said Phillips. “I love it, I recommend.”
Bus drivers in Marion County are revving up for the first day of school.
It may be a thankless job, but is one of the most important roles because many kids depend on school buses to get to school.
Cassandra Thornton is going into her 24th year as a bus driver for Marion County Public Schools.
“What motivates me? I loved my job when I first started and I still love it,” said Thornton.
She goes above and beyond her duties, lending an ear to the students she sees every day.
“You are the one to see them first in the morning and last in the afternoon. It’s important because the kids will talk to you about what’s going on in their lives. They might be going through something,” said Thornton.
Thornton admits, driving a bus full of kids can be challenging at times, especially during the pandemic with a lack of drivers.
“You have a lot of kids behind you but you have to remember you are in control of your bus,” said Thornton. “When we are low on drivers, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to make it work. Sometimes you have to go out and make another run after your run.”
Whether you’re a bus driver like Thornton or a secretary like Phillips, it takes a village to make sure teachers and students have the resources they need to provide the best education possible.
“When you have good communication with the kids and the parents that’s what helps you get through the years you’re here. You have to be able to love the job to do it,” said Thornton.
“It’s a dedicated-type job and you have to have some work ethic that goes along with it. It takes a lot of patience,” said Phillips.