MOUNT VERNON – Bill Seder had to trick Terry Streby into attending Monday night’s Mount Vernon Board of Education meeting.
“I had to get her here somehow,” the superintendent said with a laugh. “She almost bailed on me at the last moment.”
Streby is set to retire Dec. 31 after 25 years with Mount Vernon City Schools. She served as the secretary at East Elementary School for 10 years before spending the last 15 at the district’s central office, working as the executive assistant to the superintendent.
According to Seder, Streby does not crave the limelight. She works diligently behind the scenes, addressing parents’ concerns and coordinating district events, and she rarely receives public recognition for her work. That’s been fine by her, Seder said.
“But I had to try to find a way to get Terry here,” he told the board.
Monday, Seder said, was her day.
Streby was honored by the district and the Ohio Schools Boards Association for her career in public education. She received the OSBA’s annual Exemplary School Employee Award, which is given to a select number of individuals across the state each year.
The award is meant to honor school board members, teachers, district employees and community members who go above and beyond in their role, according to OSBA Central Region Manager Dr. Kim Miller-Smith, who attended Monday’s meeting virtually. The Mount Vernon Board of Education nominated Streby this year, and news returned recently that she had won it.
“I certainly think this was a great nomination,” said Miller-Smith, who recalled working with Streby over the years to coordinate Mount Vernon’s participation in OSBA events.
Streby worked alongside three superintendents during her 15-year tenure as the executive assistant (before Seder arrived in 2013, she assisted Steve Short and Jeff Maley). She dealt with angry parents and pesky reporters, while also planning school board meetings and various district events.
“Ms. Streby is the consummate professional,” Seder told those in attendance Monday, reading aloud from Streby’s nomination letter. “Her ability to positively communicate with diverse groups of stakeholders is second to none. Ms. Streby warmly greets every visitor – in-person or on the phone – regardless of the circumstances, with respect and compassion.”
Seder called Streby’s management and organizational skills “exceptional,” and noted her experienced understanding of board policy, which allowed her to develop board agendas and plan work sessions through seamless collaboration.
“Perhaps one of her most admirable qualities is her ability to plan for special events,” Seder added. “On a yearly basis, we enjoy the privilege of inviting our senior citizens to a fall and spring Senior Citizens Luncheon. Terry Streby’s light shines brightest when she masterfully organizes these events, with nearly 250 senior citizens joining our students for lunch and an entertaining program. This is truly a wonderful event (that) fosters goodwill in our community and for our schools.”
Streby humbly accepted the award in front of the school board and a small, socially distanced audience at Twin Oak Elementary on Monday. She could barely speak afterwards without choking up.
“Thank all of you, I appreciate this very much,” Streby told the board. “I know that a lot of times with letters and forms and things like that, it takes your time and effort, and I so appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you.”
Streby said she’d always felt drawn to the education field, having dreamt of becoming a teacher growing up. While those plans didn’t come to fruition, she still found herself in the classroom later on in life, volunteering when her children were in elementary school.
“I just liked the environment,” Streby said. “I liked just being able to help.”
In addition to her other duties in the superintendent’s office, Streby played a key role in coordinating Mount Vernon’s open enrollment program. She spent a significant amount of time this year fielding concerns from parents, many of whom were upset with the current learning conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through it all, Streby said she enjoyed every day on the job. She credited her fellow district staffers for this positive experience.
“I have been truly blessed to be a part of the district all these years,” she said. “And the people especially – when I was at the elementary, I had more contact with the kids, which was just amazing. The teachers and all the staff – I mean, everyone seems like they’re there for you, and you try to be there for them. I’ve just been really blessed.”
Seder said the district plans to hold an official retirement ceremony for Streby at a later date. Miller-Smith said it will be well-deserved.
“We thank you for your service to public education and for your commitment to the students and the families of Mount Vernon,” she told Streby.
The Mount Vernon Board of Education voted in November to have Jessica Shelton take Streby’s place on Jan. 1. Shelton currently serves as the Student Services secretary.