A realization of the popular educator’s pending departure has been sinking in for several months, but it assuredly began hitting home last week as he made his final report to members of the Cleveland City Council.
In that address, he did what he has done so well and so consistently during his tenure in our local school system. He lobbied for progress in the identification of a site for a new elementary school. It is an important decision because of guaranteed growth in the Cleveland and Bradley County community over the next few years.
The expansion won’t stop then.
Due to continued economic development throughout the Southeast Tennessee region, and most certainly in our hometown, growth here will continue for the next quarter century and beyond. It will bring new residents, exciting fresh businesses, an increased population ... and certainly more students.
An increasing number of young minds means the obvious — a pressing need for more schools, additional classrooms and a diverse collection of professional educators within both our Cleveland and Bradley County school systems.
Denning has preached this need for years.
Another indicator of the director’s pending retirement came last Thursday afternoon at a public reception held at Cleveland High School. There, he was greeted, congratulated and thanked by so many who have followed his career.
One was Don Baldree, a former member of the Cleveland Board of Education who supported Denning’s appointment to the post when he succeeded another likable and community-popular superintendent, Dr. Donald P. Yates.
In talking with reporters at the public reception, Baldree brought perspective. He described the late Dr. Yates as a “legend,” and credited Denning for assuming an important role and carrying on his successful predecessor’s vision. It was a legacy defined by school system growth, statewide awards and recognition for the local system and perhaps most importantly an intriguing number of high school graduates who went on to enjoy successful careers while serving as out-of-state ambassadors for their Southeast Tennessee hometown.
The shower of praise — and likely some lighthearted humor — will continue May 24 when the outgoing school director will be “roasted” by a collection of educators and community leaders. Denning will enter the oven at 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church for an evening of well-wishes, reflection and deserved tribute for his tireless commitment to education and his resilient belief in the value — past, present and future — of our young people.
The sendoff could not be more appropriate because it will benefit the very students Denning has served for so long.
Proceeds from the event will be used to fund education programs of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and grants provided by the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.
Our praises for this retiring educator could go on and on.
But we still have time and opportunity for such honorariums.
For now, we urge Cleveland and Bradley County residents to take the time to talk with this outstanding educational leader. Clap him on the back. Shake his hand. And thank him.
Not only for his commitment to excellence.
But also for his unfaltering faith in the value of education.
And the dedicated teachers who make it possible.