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Portal Elementary loves its parapros
Group of 9 keeps school going
Portal unsung 1
Portal Elementary School paraprofessionals: Pictured, left to right: Shaylah Hendrix, Glenda Best, Bonnie Hendrix, Tabitha Holmes, Judy Cowart and Tanya Finch. - photo by ROGER ALLEN/special
    Portal Elementary School Principal Paul Hudson loves his teaching staff. Part of the reason that they are so good, he says, is the school has a group of paraprofessionals that are simply superb.
    Most are Portal born and raised. Long-timer Glenda Best, first grade assistant for 32 years, said: “I applied for a job here when my oldest child was starting first grade and my youngest child was only 2 years old. I've been here ever since.”
    The other first grade assistant is Judy Cowart, who has 33 years of service. She arrived in Portal when her father took the post as minister at Portal United Methodist Church. Cowart soon got married and raised a family.
    “People here have a strong bond with each other, because we see each other not only at the school, but all throughout the community, be it at church, at the store, or even in the park,” she said.
    Tanya Finch, kindergarten assistant, was working in Statesboro at Julia P. Bryant Elementary. When a job opened up at Portal she applied. She saidd, “This is one big family here. People will take care of each others kids without having to be asked to.”
    Janet Boggs, a Kindergarten assistant, and Joy Parker, who assists the first grade teachers, have similar stories. Boggs recounts, “I was working at Portal as a substitute and when a full-time job opened at Portal, I applied.”
    Parker indicated that all of her family attended Portal schools. When she heard about a job at Portal she immediately applied. Parker mused, “I've had many so kids walk through the door at this school whose parents I went to school with its unbelievable. I'm back home again.”
    Bonnie Hendrix is the computer lLab manager and Tabitha Holmes is the “Fast Forward” paraprofessional at the school. Asked what makes the Portal school community so special, Hendrix and Holmes both replied, “People who grow up around Portal stay and raise their families.”
    Skie Hollingsworth has been at Portal for one year.
    “When I came to Portal, everyone made me feel so much at home,” she said. “When they found out I was pregnant, they were just amazing.”
    She is still on maternity leave, but preparing to come back.
    Shayla Hendrix worked at the Bulloch County Board of Education's Central Office in the Special Education Department. Once all three of her children were enrolled at Portal, she knew she had to get a job there as soon as one opened up.
    “They have made me feel so much at home it's amazing,” Hendrix said. “My kids have never been so happy, and say they never want to leave. There are teachers here that I grew up next door to. Now, our kids are growing up together too.”
    At Portal Elementary School, one thing seems perfectly clear. The circle of family and community is a tight one.
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