Serving Barnwell County and it's neighbors since 1852

Barnwell School District 45 recognizes educators & staff at final celebration


Wearing shirts indicative of their Warhorse pride, Barnwell School District 45 (BSD45) administrators and educators joined together to celebrate the completion of another school year – their last as a district before the county’s final school consolidation on July 1. 

“This is a tough day, it is the last time we are all coming together as Barnwell School District 45, it’s the end of an era,” said Superintendent Dr. Crissie Stapleton. 

Teachers of the Year

This year was a bit different than previous; the district teacher of the year was not announced, and is being held until the fall term when Barnwell County school districts officially consolidate. However, teachers of the year at each of the four BSD45 schools were still honored and celebrated. 

“While this year seems like the end of an era for Barnwell School District 45 and sometimes change can be scary, I want to share a quote from Abraham Maslow. He said, ‘In any given moment, we have two options, to step forward in growth, or step back into safety.’ So while the unknown can give us all a little bit of anxiety, we can’t grow without a little change,” said last year’s teacher of the year Deanna Grubbs.

The theme of the event was ‘Here We Grow Again’ and it was planned by the district’s teacher forum. Plants lined the stage and seed packets were strewn across tables as raffle items and giveaways. All planters were painted by Barnwell Primary School (BPS) gardeners, and the seeds and pots were donated by the Barnwell Walmart. 

At BPS, the teacher of the year is Kawanna Ford. The school’s supervisor of speech has been with the district for 10 years. 

“She is one of the people who can keep me focused, she’s very professional with what she does,” said retiring BPS principal Donna Selvey. “I am always amazed too because when I go into her room to do an observation or hang out or ask a question, she still gets so excited about what her children are doing in the classroom and how they are moving forward.”

Ford is described as a teacher who is always ready to answer questions and give tips on how to better serve the students. 

Barnwell Elementary School (BES) principal Kay Gooding describes her school’s teacher of the year as “a hard worker who is willing to take on new challenges every day to impart instruction and create an excellent classroom environment for her students,” she said. 

“She has a strong command of the classroom and sets obtainable goals for all of her students…I have never met anyone who is more concerned with the wellbeing and academic success of students,” said Gooding. 

Sumita Sinha is an academic coach in the special education department at BES, and is said to always have great energy, enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and goes above and beyond to give her best. 

“I can honestly say that she is a woman of strong moral character and integrity,” said Gooding of Sinha. 

Guinyard-Butler Middle School (GBMS) principal Henrietta Williams put the spotlight on an educator who prefers to stay behind the scenes, but works tirelessly for the wellbeing of the school. 

“She will do anything asked for our students and our schools behind closed doors, but in the crowd she takes a step back,” said Williams. 

Melissa Easterling “is one that welcomes her students everyday at the door with the biggest smile and a heart full of love for her content and her children,” said Williams. 

Easterling was named the GBMS 2024-25 teacher of the year. 

At Barnwell High School (BHS), head volleyball coach and computer science teacher Kames Furtick was named the teacher of the year. 

“We interviewed this young lady, and the composure she had was unbelievable for anybody, much less a first-year teacher,” said BHS principal Franklin McCormack. “It was apparent from day one that she was indeed a gem.”

Furtick is described as an asset to the students she serves, setting high expectations both inside and outside of the classroom. 


Each school’s principal recognized retirees, many of which were in attendance. According to Dr. Stapleton, the time all the retirees across the district have served totals 447 years. 

Barnwell School District 45 board members recognize the district's retirees during the May 2024 board meeting. Pictured from left: (top row) board members Felicia Devore, Rhett Richardson and Rosey Anderson; (middle row) retirees Michael Highsmith, Sandra Mintz, Catherine McCurry, Burnell Creech, Karen Brown; (bottow row) retirees Lisa Collins, Donna Selvey, Melissa Moore, Elizabeth Holloway, Denise Sharpe, and Ann Marie Hebbard. Not pictured: Tammy Briggs, Susan Gardner, James Hammonds, Shirley Jones, Cathy Tucker, and Rachel Wall.
Barnwell School District 45 board members recognize the district's retirees during the May 2024 board meeting. Pictured from left: (top row) board …
The retirees include:

  • Barnwell Primary: Lisa Collins, James Hammonds, Melissa Moore, and principal Donna Selvey.
  • Barnwell Elementary: Karen Brown, Susan Gardner, AnnMarie Hebbard, Elizabeth Holloway, and Denise Sharpe.
  • Guinyard-Butler Middle: Tammy Briggs and Cathy MCurry.
  • Barnwell High: Mike Highsmith and Cathy Tucker.
  • Transportation: Burnell Creech and Shirley Jones.
  • Food Service: Sandra Mintz. 
  • District Office: assistant superintendent Dr. Rachel Wall

“We are so grateful for all you’ve done for our students, and just know you are always a part of our family,” said Dr. Stapleton. 

The breakfast ended with a video highlighting teachers, staff, board members, community members, and more who all share a piece of their heart with BSD45.