St. Charles prin­ci­pal re­ceives ‘Pa­tri­otic Em­ployer’ award

Con­ley was nom­i­nated by teacher cur­rently serv­ing in Kuwait

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

St. Charles High School Prin­ci­pal Rick Con­ley was on bus duty Tues­day when he re­ceived an un­ex­pected re­quest on his walkie talkie to head in­side to the school’s au­di­to­rium.

Dozens of fac­ulty and staff, none of whom knew what was go­ing on, con­versed with each other as they sat and waited for re­tired U.S. Air Force Ma­jor War­ren John­son to be­gin a sur­prise cer­e­mony for Con­ley. Mo­ments later, Con­ley popped up from his seat near the front row with a big smile, walkie talkie still in hand, after John­son called on him to re­ceive the Pa­tri­otic Em­ployer Award from the Em­ployer Sup­port for the Guard and Re­serve (ESGR).

“It’s the most cov­eted award be­cause the Sec­re­tary of De­fense said you can reach more peo­ple that are sup­port­ing the [Na­tional] Guard and Re­serve mem­bers,” John­son, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Mary­land’s ESGR com­mit­tee, said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view. “This is also an award that is pre­sented by all branches of the mil­i­tary ser­vice — what we call the Seven Seals Award [which is the only ESGR award that is pre­sented in recog­ni­tion of sig­nif­i­cant in­di­vid­ual or or­ga­ni­za­tional

achieve­ment, ini­tia­tive or sup­port that pro­motes and sup­ports ESGR’s mis­sion]. We like this award, on be­half of the state com­mit­tee, be­cause it gives us a chance to get out and meet the em­ploy­ers.”

John­son in­formed the group of ed­u­ca­tors that their col­league, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and health teacher Mary Dempsey, nom­i­nated Con­ley for the award in recog­ni­tion of his sup­port to­ward em­ploy­ees like Dempsey who con­tribute to na­tional se­cu­rity and pro­tect oth­ers’ free­dom by serv­ing their coun­try in the Na­tional Guard or Re­serve.

“I am a sol­dier in the Army Re­serves and I am cur­rently de­ployed to Kuwait. I have al­ways had a lot of mil­i­tary obli­ga­tions to ful­fill while teach­ing here,” Capt. Dempsey said in a let­ter, which was read aloud by ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant Mar­quelle Peavy dur­ing the sur­prise cer­e­mony. “I wanted to fig­ure out a way to thank this school for their sup­port and when I heard about the ‘Pa­triot Award,’ I knew that this school de­served it for how sup­ported I have felt.”

Although Dempsey could not phys­i­cally be present at the sur­prise cer­e­mony due to her de­ploy­ment over­seas, she ex­pressed her ut­most grat­i­tude to her col­leagues and Con­ley whom she cred­its for help­ing ease her sud­den tran­si­tion.

“Last year was kind of a whirl­wind of events where I found out, rather sud­denly, that I would be able to serve my coun­try as a lo­gis­tics of­fi­cer in Kuwait. This com­mit­ment that I made did not come with­out sac­ri­fices that this school had to make along with me. I want to thank ev­ery­one for that,” Peavy said as she con­tin­ued to read Dempsey’s let­ter. “I’ve never felt as though my mil­i­tary ser­vice was an in­con­ve­nience or an­noy­ance.”

Dempsey taught phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and health at St. Charles High School from

Au­gust 2015 to Jan­uary 2018, in ad­di­tion to lead­ing sev­eral life­guard cour­ses that re­quire spe­cial­ized train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Dempsey en­cour­aged her col­leagues to “keep up the won­der­ful job of ed­u­cat­ing the lead­ers of to­mor­row,” and also noted that she will “be back to join” the school sys­tem in the near fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to ESGR’s web­site, the Pa­triot Award is only given to in­di­vid­ual su­per­vi­sors, not an en­tire staff or or­ga­ni­za­tion as a whole. It re­flects the ef­forts made to sup­port cit­i­zen war­riors through a wide range of mea­sures, in­clud­ing flex­i­ble sched­ules, time off prior to and after de­ploy­ment, car­ing for fam­i­lies and grant­ing leaves of ab­sence, if needed.

“We’re not sup­port­ing the con­flict; we’re sup­port­ing the troops,” John­son said. “Peo­ple that are left in the [civil­ian] work­force have to pick up the pieces. Some em­ploy­ers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to say, ‘Hey, we’re go­ing to sup­port you whether you’re on ac­tive duty for two weeks, for six weeks or even up to a year.’ And ap­par­ently, Capt. Dempsey felt as though Mr. Con­ley has gone above and beyond to sup­port her while she is de­ployed. The Mary­land state [ESGR] com­mit­tee felt that she did a won­der­ful write-up to nom­i­nate Mr. Con­ley and what he’s do­ing to sup­port her.”

Con­ley said the Pa­triot Award is a re­flec­tion of the sup­port shown from the en­tire staff at St. Charles High School. He de­scribed Dempsey as a com­mu­nity-ori­ented in­di­vid­ual who is kind and en­joys giv­ing back.

“This award is not about me, as much as I ap­pre­ci­ate it,” said Con­ley as he stood in front of staff mem­bers with his award. “[Dempsey] called me down to the gym one day last year and was al­most in tears be­cause she found out that she was go­ing to be de­ployed. She was very ner­vous about how that was go­ing to im­pact not only ev­ery­one here, but also how it’s go­ing to im­pact her in terms of be­ing able have a job when she came back from the Mid­dle East.”

“All I re­ally did was get some an­swers to her ques­tions and put her in touch with the right peo­ple to find a way to sup­port her with her exit, and make her feel that her stu­dents were go­ing to be well taken care of in her ab­sence,” Con­ley added. “I just want to add, in her words of thanks, that this award is as much about all of you as it is about me, if not more so [you]. Thank you all for mak­ing this day a very spe­cial one.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about ESGR and its em­ployer awards pro­grams, go to https://www. esgr.mil/Em­ployer-Awards/ ESGR-Awards-Pro­grams.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

St. Charles High School Prin­ci­pal Rick Con­ley, left, holds his “Pa­tri­otic Em­ployer” award plaque that he re­ceived from Em­ployer Sup­port for the Guard and Re­serve state com­mit­tee rep­re­sen­ta­tive War­ren John­son dur­ing a sur­prise cer­e­mony Tues­day in­side the school’s au­di­to­rium.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Above, Con­ley takes a few min­utes to speak about Mary Dempsey and thank other staff mem­bers while dis­play­ing his “Pa­tri­otic Em­ployer” award plaque from the Em­ployer Sup­port for the Guard and Re­serve. Be­low, school ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant Mar­quelle Peavy reads a let­ter of grat­i­tude from U.S. Army Re­serves Capt. Mary Dempsey, a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and health teacher who nom­i­nated prin­ci­pal Rick Con­ley for the Pa­tri­otic Em­ployer Award in recog­ni­tion of his sup­port dur­ing her de­ploy­ment over­seas. Dempsey left ear­lier this year to serve in Kuwait as a lo­gis­tics of­fi­cer.

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