IOW schools say farewell to clerk, DeGroft

Published 9:54 am Saturday, December 14, 2013

ISLE OF WIGHT—The last Isle of Wight County School Board meeting for the year was not without some tears. During the Thursday’s session, the members honored a retired administrator and one of their own.

First, Sharon Gwaltney of Carrsville visited with her husband, Steve, to receive an award in recognition of her service as clerk of the school board. Following an illness, she chose to step down several months ago.

“She did a lot. She did a very good job,” said Chairman Robert Eley, visibly trying to control his emotion. “You went beyond what you were called for.”

Superintendent Katrise Perera said that Gwaltney often “kept me in line,” and recounted that the clerk often wouldn’t leave until she did, even if the hour was late. So they’d walk out the door together, and Perera would later return to get her own work done.

Second, Herb DeGroft, who was elected to represent the Hardy District in 2005, likewise was presented an award for his service. DeGroft had also been an appointed board member from 1995 to 1999.

The parting might also be considered bittersweet in consideration of the events over the past spring and summer. Emails sent privately by DeGroft and IOW Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey to fellow board members and county staff were made public by Isle of Wight NAACP President Dottie Harris, after she received copies from an anonymous source.

hough both men repeatedly apologized in public for the emails’ controversial content, they each declined to resign in spite of repeated calls from members of their respective boards.

DeGroft, however, did rescind his decision to run again for office. Winning the seat in the past election was Tina Hill, who he praised and offered her any advice from him she’d like.

Eley and DeGroft acknowledged that past difficulty, but asserted they still have each other’s respect.

“I know we will hear from you again,” the chairman said.

“I’m standing here because of this gentleman,” said Smithfield’s Denise Tynes. She remembered a meeting they had several years ago, and he convinced her to run for a board seat, which she eventually earned.

“Thanks for being a rock in this community,” added Tynes.

“She’s really brought a lot to this board,” replied DeGroft.

Kent Hildebrand of the Newport District also credited him for his place on the board.

Perera said DeGroft compelled many of the staff to “thinking out of the box, especially when there was no box.”

“The school division is better because of him,” she continued.

“I can’t thank you enough,” DeGroft concluded. “I’d stack Isle of Wight school division against any in Virginia and the United States. I don’t know a more dedicated group.”