Brightly colored tablecloths and balloons welcomed the Columbia County school system's newest teachers during a working luncheon Tuesday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
"It is good to see you. All of you are smiling," Superintendent Charles Nagle said in his opening remarks to the teachers.
He introduced the school system's administrative staff and principals to the new teachers and told them they would enjoy community support from county residents. Nevertheless, Nagle said, "This is all about the well-being of the boys and girls that we're educating."
Regina Buccafusco, the school board chairwoman, also spoke to the teachers.
"You can make a difference in the life of a child in your classroom. You can make a difference in the school system, too," she said.
She said although the size of the school system and the educational curriculum have changed through the years, the quality of the system's teachers has remained constant.
The teachers said they were eagerly awaiting the school year.
Joanna Gannotta, who previously taught at Southside Elementary School in Rich-mond County, will teach second grade at Blue Ridge Elementary School this year.
"I'm looking forward to working with a group of women that have amazing experience and a wealth of information," she said.
"It's like a family within a family already," she said.
Other "new" teachers in the Columbia County schools this year are returning to their roots.
Diana Padgett, who taught in Jefferson County for two years, will be a first-grade teacher at North Harlem Elementary School.
"I'm looking forward to working in Columbia County. I did my student teaching at North Harlem Elementary School," she said. "I loved everything about the school. It was such a nice, positive environment."
Jody Hilley, who will teach physical education and coach football at Lakeside High School, is returning there after a six-year absence.
He said he taught at Lakeside middle and high schools for 15 years.
"You just never know how good the Columbia County schools are until you move away," he said. "The school system is just hard to beat."
Anthony Wright, the county school system human resources director, said that the system has hired 159 teachers this year and that 10 vacancies remain. Thirty teaching positions were created this year to meet growth demands.
He said he expects to hire about 175 teachers altogether after enrollment figures are completed.
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