BRADENTON — “GO, LINDA! GO, LINDA! GO, LINDA!”
It was not your usual retirement party Friday at Sugg Middle School.
Sure, there were heartfelt speeches, hugs, cards, flowers, food and cake.
But Linda Carnes, retiring as a language arts teacher for 35 years at Sugg, got the party going, boogeying down atop a media center table to Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine.”
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Turns out it’s a tradition, one that had Sugg’s staff clapping to the beat.
“She’s done this every year,” said daughter Von Sanders, who came from Orlando for the surprise party.
It was a moment of levity for a poignant going away.
For cafeteria manager Helen Nuttall.
For secretary Bonnie Kane.
For Principal Willie Clark, too, who will take over at Palmetto High School, pending school board approval.
“It was a tough decision for me, because this is such a great school, so family-oriented, a place where the entire focus is on helping students,” he said.
Carnes, Nuttall and Kane were a big part of it.
“They’re three very special individuals, who represent what Sugg is all about — hard work, dedication, caring for students, helping each one be successful,” Clark said.
Rocks, teacher Bruce Dietch called them.
“We as teachers see kids go in and go out like a river, but we have staff members who are like rocks, who hold everything together,” said the longtime Sugg language arts teacher.
Carnes and Nuttall echoed each other’s sentiments.
“My second family,” the 57-year-old teacher said.
“My second home,” said the 62-year-old cafeteria manager who spent 17 years at Sugg.
Kane, who was 10 years at Sugg and 18 at the school district, related to Dietch’s metaphor.
“It takes a lot of rocks to make a mountain,” the 62-year-old said.
“If you don’t have them, the mountain goes flat. There are new rocks to take the old rocks place. We’re getting a little tarnished, so it’s time for the younger rocks to take over.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Please include a phone number for verification.