KATHLEEN — Nearly 20 years later, Jeremy Morton, now pastor of Cross Point Baptist Church, still remembers retiring Houston County Superintendent David Carpenter, then principal of Bonaire Elementary School, as a person who demanded respect for authority.
As a student library assistant, Morton said he developed the habit of calling teachers by their first names, which appeared as he scanned their books. One day, he called a teacher by her first name around a group of students just as Carpenter happened to walk by.
Carpenter confronted him about it, and the young Morton responded, “Is there a problem, David?”
With that, Carpenter took Morton aside and told him never to call another teacher by their first name again.
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“If you don’t, your father and me will let you live one more day,” Carpenter said, according to Morton.
Morton shared the story with group of around 150 people gathered in the auditorium at Veterans High School on Thursday afternoon for a retirement ceremony honoring Carpenter.
After leading the invocation, Morton concluded, “God bless you, Mr. Carpenter.”
Robin Hines, incoming school superintendent, said Carpenter’s retirement announcement earlier this year shocked him amid a year of having to make difficult decisions, including the system’s zoning controversy.
“It was like a kick to all of us in the stomach,” Hines said. “He’s a great teacher, a great mentor, a great friend.”
Among school leaders, local politicians and Carpenter’s family, Georgia Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox made an appearance at the event as a surprise speaker.
Cox praised Carpenter for being cooperative and solution-oriented in times when difficult decisions had to be made on the state and local levels.
“He’s an example of great leadership, a servant leader, never wanting the limelight, referring to other work people do. He’s not interested in credit or accolades,” Cox said.
State Reps. Willie Talton and Tony Sellier issued resolutions praising Carpenter for his years of service to the Houston County school system.
At one point, Carpenter’s serious, pensive expression broke into laughter as his brother Danny, who preceded Carpenter as superintendent, had to silence his ringing phone during the ceremony.
Northside High School principal Mark Scott remembered catchphrases from monthly meetings with the superintendent and school principals, such as the “Houston County Way,” “High expectations” and “Do things right, do the right thing.”
Shirley Hills Elementary principal Traci Jackson presented Carpenter with gifts from system employees, which included golf paraphernalia and a wooden swivel chair emblazoned with the Houston County Board of Education logo.
Carpenter also received a city proclamation and keys to the city of Warner Robins, as well as a humorous poem from two of his former driver’s education students at Warner Robins High School — Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen and Lindsey Elementary School principal Anthony Lunceford.
The event concluded with a slideshow honoring Carpenter, which included photos from his childhood, as a young teacher, his family and highlights of his tenure as superintendent.
Carpenter thanked family and school leaders and said he had confidence in his colleagues to continue to move the school system forward.
“The people make a difference in the Houston County school system,” he said.
To contact Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.