This month, Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship, all six CHARACTER COUNTS! pillars are celebrated. I encourage you to engage in activities where you and your children can display and focus on any of the pillars. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a reflective exercise with principals and it resulted in some further reflection on my part. This year has been like no other and we have all worked with challenges and unexpected roadblocks like never before. It is early in the second semester and we still have three months of work ahead of us, so I would like to share some of what I have witnessed this school year.

Custodians do not simply clean floors, desks and tables. They have been maintaining sanitary, healthy schools while still wearing a smile and supporting children by making them feel welcome. Foodservice workers are not simply preparing and distributing food. They are greeting children and staff members and providing nourishment when children need it the most. Secretaries, clerks and support personnel are not only fulfilling the many tasks that help a school run smoothly, they are also the connection students and parents need when there seem to be so many barriers that separate us. Teachers have stayed on pace with instructional lessons as expected. They have also continuously checked on students to be certain they are doing well and their needs are being met. Sometimes the teaching has nothing to do with the standards because the immediate need of a child or class may be far greater. School leaders have managed schools well and made sure everyone is kept as safe as possible during this pandemic. They have designed and redesigned schedules and plans to help teachers and students. District staff have done not only their work but whatever needed to be done at any given time. Bus drivers, maintenance workers and technology staff have been making sure kids get to school and schools have what they need. I have also watched employees drive up to homes of our students and help families with technology or instructional materials. Our School Board has gone about the business of responding to the needs of the school district. Each of them has also personally invested in the schools and their staffs to be of service and provide the resources to support children.

This year was another historical year as we celebrated and recognized all of the School-Related Employees of the Year. These employees are so important in fulfilling the mission of our district. The applications for the distinct honor varied in skills and abilities, but the love for children resonates in them and makes a very daunting task for the judges. This year’s St. Johns County School District School (SJCSD) Related Employee of the Year is John D’Attoma, lead operator for the Transportation Department. 

Mr. D’Attoma has over six years of experience in operating a bus in the school district. He arrives at work ready to transport hundreds of students each day with a smile on his face and excitement for the school day. In the SJCSD safety is paramount. As a school bus operator, Mr. D’Attoma is not only responsible for safely transporting students to and from school daily, but he also conducts daily pre-trip and post-trip inspections of the bus to ensure proper operating conditions, adherence to prescribed DOT standards and compliance with proper safety standards. In his role as a lead operator, Mr. D’Attoma is responsible for training, developing, coaching and mentoring over 30 fellow bus operators assigned to his region. Mr. D’Attoma has been instrumental in the department’s efforts to provide supplies, technology and support to students and families during the pandemic. COVID-19 provided an opportunity for him to serve others in ways that he would not normally be involved. His commitment to go beyond getting the job done is what makes him an excellent employee.  


Tim Forson, Superintendent of Schools,
St. Johns County School District

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