published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Hancock's last hurrah
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- J. Ned Hancock attended his last school board meeting as an elected official Tuesday night. After completing four terms of office -- he was first elected in 1996 -- Hancock retired this year. Jan Shoop was elected to the District 3 seat.
Shoop attended the reception in Hancock's honor, as did Pete Pollard, who preceded Hancock in office.
In fact, a great many people turned out to say farewell and good luck including, former board members Wally Randall, Richard Norris, Margaret Turnbull and Ruth Handley, a former superintendent of schools. Elected officials like Ray Royce of Lake Placid, Scott Stanley of Sebring, County Commissioner Ron Handley, Jim Brooks, who was just elected to the county commission, and Sebring Mayor George Hensley also paid their respects.
Norris read a letter from former superintendent Robert Fitzgerald, who praised Hancock for his "compassion, outspokeness, clarity and honor."
Randall said Hancock "tackled any issue and was patient -- when required," a point that met with genuine laughter. Randall added that when Hancock asked questions he expected answers. "He was an equal opportunity foot roaster," Randall said.
Superintendent Wally Cox, a man of true emotions, couldn't fight tears as he stepped next to Hancock to formally say good-by. They've known each other all their lives and worked closely over the years.
"This is always a disaster," Cox said, meaning his struggle to not cry. "That's just how I'm wired." Gathering himself, Cox added, "I grew up with his sisters. Ned was the little brother, spoiled much of the time. I've known him a long time. I remember when he was very active at Woodlawn Elementary School, well before he thought of running for the school board. "I will miss you," Cox said. "You are a true servant leader."
In his turn Hancock talked about how a journey doesn't always work out the way you imagine it will. "You start running with all kinds of ideas, but schools are people, plain and simple. We have good people. We need to attract more."
Bringing new teachers into the county, he said, should be a priority in the future, adding that it won't easy -- salaries are low and young people look for the excitement of a city.
Hancock asked the board to "please stay diligent. I'm biased. I'm old. I'm all those things, but guys, we are not getting what we need. Go to Tallahassee. We need more opportunities, more money and more classrooms.
"The only chance these young kids have is their education."
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