Longtime Dayton Schools Employee Surprised with Statewide Honor
It was a secret operation at Dayton High School on Friday afternoon as school officials covertly planned a ceremony to honor finance clerk and principal's secretary Linda Brandenburg.
The longtime district employee was presented with the Wanda Luttrell Office Professional Award, a statewide recognition presented by the Kentucky Association of School
Administrators (KASA). To set everything up in the gym and to get everyone there to surprise her, Brandenburg was sent on a wild goose chase in the guise of another meeting elsewhere.
"I was extremely surprised," said Brandenburg, after entering the high school gym to thunderous applause from the appreciative audience. "I don't look at myself as special. I just love what I do."
Charlie Brandenburg, Linda's husband, was present, along with daughter Missy Frederick and son Scott, who had traveled from Florida to be present for his mother's special honor.
"I didn't have trouble keeping the secret," said Charlie. "We like to go out to eat, and I told her I would take care of plans for tonight and it would be a surprise. When she came in to the gym, I leaned over and asked her if she liked this surprise better than supper."
High school principal Jeremy Dodd nominated Brandenburg for the award. "Linda is the heart and soul of Dayton High School," he stated at the ceremony. "She is dedicated to lifelong learning, and she has touched so many lives. She has served seven principals, and I am the eighth. She has no plans to retire, even though she has been here 36 years. Her love and devotion to the staff and the students is obvious. We love you, and you deserve the award!"
Over the years, Brandenburg has served as a bus driver, special education assistant, janitor, attendance secretary, princicpal's secretary and finance clerk. She is renowned for her generosity to the students, often giving them money out of her own pocket, and is known for her willingness to stay beyond work hours to help others complete tasks.
Brandenburg's nomination was one of many from all over the state and when the judging committee started looking them over, Brandenburg's quickly went to the top of the stack, according to Rhonda Caldwell, Deputy Director of KASA. "Linda was chosen from a large pool of applicants for this statewide award by a panel of school administrators who work with their own office professionals everyday," Caldwell explained. "This panel recognized immediately the power of having someone like Linda, who has certainly shown she goes above and beyond, and plays an integral role in the district performing at optimum levels. It's an absolute joy for us to recognize her for this welldeserved honor."
KASA is the largest school administrator group in Kentucky, representing more than 3,000 education leaders from across the commonwealth. In existence since 1969, KASA connects education leaders to policymakers, legislators and other interest groups, and provides numerous benefits and services to Kentucky's school administrators.
Brandenburg had no idea what was going on, even when she saw the audience, the balloons and all the attention focused her way.
"I thought maybe they were forcing me to retire," she said with a laugh. "I saw my son, and I thought something was going on, but I never anticipated anything like this."
Dodd said that Brandenburg could have retired years ago, but because of her love for the school and the students she stays on.
"There isn't a more dedicated or deserving employee in the Dayton Independent Schools," he declared.
Superintendent Jay Brewer congratulated Brandenburg on her award and echoed the praise of being a valued employee and human being.
"Linda's enthusiasm is her love of her job," he concluded. "It really is true if you find what you love to do you will never work a day in your life."
Story & photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor