Schools earn Utrust award

Published 9:05 pm Thursday, November 30, 2023

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Some good news for the Claiborne School System came via the garnering of a prestigious award from the statewide Utrust Organization. The schools were awarded the 2023 Best Appreciation Program in East Tennessee during a recognition banquet in Nashville. Front and center was Sharon Tolliver, who tirelessly worked to bring about the winning program that has also earned a crisp $100 for each school campus within the district.

“I am just so proud of Sharon for all the work she has done with Utrust,” said Danna Smith, Assistant Director of Schools.

Utrust Administrator Dr. Dan Tollett says Claiborne County Schools has done an exceptional job of making its employees feel appreciated.

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“System Coordinator Sharon Tolliver has provided excellent leadership in getting each of their schools and the students in those schools involved in recognizing and expressing appreciation to employees,” said Tollett.

Meredith Arnold, Claiborne Director of Schools agreed, saying that the program has been the catalyst for so much good coming to the school system. Arnold said the district appreciates and values every employee and that the number one goal is for everyone connected with the county schools to feel like family.

“Each employee performs an important job that helps to make our schools good places for the children to learn and grow,” said Arnold.

Tolliver says it is important that students learn to recognize and express appreciation to those who do things for them. She explained the process.

Each school campus has a student A-Team or, Appreciation Team whose members are responsible for planning special days to honor each group of employees. Being a part of the A-Team allows students to absorb leadership skills while learning just how to recognize and express their appreciation for those who make a difference in their lives every day, she said.

Tolliver added that the school system also has a student G-Force, or Gratitude Force, at each campus responsible for building “an attitude of gratitude.”

Utrust provides help in cataloguing photos, videos and other documents in a format that can be used to create lifetime memories for the honorees.

Established in 1980 as the TN School Boards Insurance Trust, Utrust created its mission statement to assist local school boards with employee benefits. The organization underwent a name change, adding employee recognition, appreciation and development to its major goals.

Utrust members have not only saved millions of dollars in unemployment costs but also enacted via a trustees vote in 2008 the establishment of a recognition and appreciation program. As part of the plan, eight appreciation days were included in the school calendar each year.

Just in the last seven years, Utrust has distributed to its members some $7 million in mini grants. These mini grants provide funds for projects not included in the school budget.