Secretaries and administrative assistants are often at the frontlines of school operations answering phones, serving the needs of other staff, and directing visitors where they need to go.
One administrative assistant's efforts to make the Fort Dodge School District the best place it can be earned her state recognition.
Norma Russell-Adson, administrative assistant for the BRIDGES program and Student Services department, has been named the 2010 Educational Support Professional of the Year by the Iowa State Education Association.
Nominated by fellow Uniserv Unit 2 board member Daniel Sarasio Meyer, a teacher at Forest City High School, Russell-Adson, has served in a number of leadership capacities at both the state and local levels.
"I was very surprised," Russell-Adson said. "I had absolutely no clue that I had been nominated for this."
Russell-Adson has been active with the Iowa State Education Association and Uniserv throughout her tenure with the Fort Dodge Community Schools, serving as a two-time association representative from 2000 through 2004 and again from 2006 to 2008. She has attended numerous ISEA conferences and legislative conferences and has been a strong advocate for Iowa's educational support professionals.
"ESP's are a vital part to any school district," she said. "They are the bus drivers, cooks, custodians and paraeducators. They are the ones that would be hard to run without."
Locally, Russell-Adson has served as president and chief negotiator for the secretary's union, working with district secretaries and clerical staff on any issues, and helped with contract and wage negotiations.
"A lot of it is really a behind the scenes roll," she said. "I enjoy being involved with the association and ISEA and what that brings to education. ESP's are important staff and I like to keep that in peoples' minds."
Russell-Adson has also worked to bring a living wage to Iowa's educational support professionals.
"I'm a big supporter of that," she said. "People need to know what a living wage is. ESP's should be able to make enough to support themselves without other assistance."
In her day-to-day job with the Fort Dodge Community Schools, Russell-Adson works with all of the student service programs, which includes the BRIDGES mentoring program, six BRIDGES case managers, and a community health nurse. She answers the phones, does statistic work for the district, handles large volumes of data and maintains the BRIDGES computer system.
"She's our organizer behind the scenes," said KC Williams, the community health nurse for the Fort Dodge Community Schools. "She's the friendly voice on the other side of the phone and knows the ins and outs of our daily operations."
Russell-Adson began her career with the Fort Dodge Community School District in 1971 as a secretary in the district administration building. After taking a few years off, she returned as a substitute secretary when her children were young, and in 1981, took a job as a secretary at South Junior High, which is now Fair Oaks Middle School. After 24 years at Fair Oaks, Russell-Adson moved into her current position as secretary with student services. At the conclusion of the 2009-2010 school year, she will be one of 43 district employees who will be retiring.
"That decision took a lot of thinking," she said. "I enjoy what I do and have made many good friends."
She said that she plans to remain active with the ISEA following her retirement.
Russell-Adson will be presented the award during the ISEA Delegates Assembly April 8 and 9 in Ames.
"I'm very honored," Russell-Adson said. "There are more than 2,000 ESP's out there who are eligible to be nominated for this award."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org