Volume 1, Issue 8, Winter 2021

Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their
personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can
accomplish.” Sam Walton


Comments from the President of GASPA
Valerie Suessmith

As I watch all of the GASPA Gaggle questions hit my in-box and fly across my computer screen, it never ceases to amaze me just how busy we are as HR professionals. Additionally, so many of you wear so many hats; however, your breadth of knowledge in each area is nothing short of remarkable.

And if the general, day-to-day HR work wasn’t already hard enough, we got hit with a worldwide pandemic nearly a year ago. The staffing challenges the pandemic has caused, coupled with the implementation of new laws and interpretation of existing laws, has created plates so full it’s a wonder we can get out of bed in the morning.

But we do get out of bed…and we do go to work each day intent on staffing and retaining the best employees to serve our districts, and ultimately our students. At one moment we might be the quasiepidemiologist on staff, and the next moment we might be called on to manage a certification issue. But we continue to pivot, to problem-solve, and to serve.

While 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have surely been very different for all of us, it is obvious that the HR professionals working to support school districts throughout the State of Georgia are committed, talented, and dedicated. I am honored to work alongside you on behalf of the students in our charge.
Stay well!![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Board Member Highlight

Michele Thomas, EdS, MBA, pHCLE
HR Compliance Supervisor
Substitute Office Supervisor
Human Resources
Cobb County School District

Many moons ago, I graduated with my MBA with an emphasis in Human Resources and immediately went in another direction. I was lucky enough to find my way into the Education field in 2008 when Wilma Widmer took a chance on me, hiring me as a Middle School Graduation Coach and also a 21st Century Community Learning Center Site Coordinator. In this role, I wore many HR hats, such as hiring, training, and scheduling, just to name a few. I then moved to the Georgia Department of Education in Federal Programs working as an Education Research and Evaluation Specialist. I was able to travel throughout Georgia, training my programs and auditing others. There were days I felt I learned as much, if not more, from the great programs with whom I worked. In 2015, I was hired at Cobb County School District as an HR Manager, finally coming full circle. I have been going to GASPA Conferences since 2015 and have met some of the most amazing minds I have ever had the privilege of working with. The camaraderie, friendship, and knowledge gained in these conferences have been invaluable. I have since obtained my Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership and now hold the position of HR Supervisor over ACA Compliance and the Substitute Office. Recently, I was elected to the GASPA Board of Directors as the Legislative Liaison. Watching the General Assembly, the committee meetings, and giving GASPA a voice in regards to proposed legislation has been extremely rewarding and enlightening. I look forward to many more GASPA Conferences with everyone and continuing with the synergy that equips us with the tools we need to be successful. “Never stop learning; for when we stop learning, we stop growing” – Loyal ‘Jack’ Lewman.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Member Spotlight

Phillip R. Tremble, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Bulloch County
Director of Human Resources

1. For what school district do you work? How many students are in the district?
I work for the Bulloch County School System as the Director of Human Resources. Our school system currently has approximately 11,000 students.

2. How did you get into the field of HR in education?
By fate is probably the simplest answer. My work history with respect to management began with Bilo in the retail grocery industry for nine years. From there I moved to the staffing industry for six years as a personnel manager with Snelling Personnel Services. I was later recruited by Georgia Pacific to be a Human Resource Coordinator where I was for five years and later transitioned within the company as an interim safety manager for one year. In July of 2015, I interviewed with the Bulloch County School System for their Director of Human Resources position and this is where I have been for almost sixteen years.

3. Do you have any advice you would offer to people who are new to HR?
Well, if someone plans to be in HR for the long hall, the person will need to develop fairly thick skin and be comfortable with wearing many hats. They should always be flexible and not overly regimented. Knowing the laws that help govern human resources is very important, but learning how to implement them strategically and with skill is a vital key to becoming successful in the field.

HR plays a very important role in the moral of an organization in how we relate to all employees. We should always be a resource for people at all levels of the organization and community. Supporting organizational change and initiatives can be a challenge at times as you help employees understand those changes and initiatives while guiding them in ways to achieve success within the organization.

Documentation is always very important. It protects you, and more importantly, it protects the organization. Everyone wears a social mask, especially during an interview. Do your best to screen your candidates, but if you are in HR for any length of time, a bad hire is eventually inevitable. Don’t sweat it too much. There are processes to remove those that don’t work out. Just be patient and follow the protocols.

With respect to terminations, document, document, document. Low performers will tend to terminate themselves without any help. You will also find documentation to be very helpful when it comes to unemployment. The DOL likes to see documentation and that the organization did their part in giving the employee opportunity to be successful. If you can do that, you will develop a good track record for winning unemployment cases.

Lastly, be involved in the organization’s decision-making process. Get to know where you fit in as an HR department and how you can be an asset to the organization. Helping the organization meet its strategic goals is your highest responsibility and pathway to success.

4. What is the best part of your job? What do you enjoy the most?
My degree is in psychology, so somewhat obviously people are the very best part of my
job. I thoroughly enjoy working with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. The more they are different from me, the more I am interested in their perspectives. Everyone has their own unique view of the world and how it works. I think I mostly enjoy helping people find success in their worlds and watching them grow as they interact with the world around them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Comments from Executive Director
Kelly Coash Johnson

Greetings Georgia Association of School Personnel Administrators (GASPA).

Many challenges have faced us this past year affecting school personnel administration
and education in this country. With the current pandemic and civil unrest in our nation, it is now more important than ever to come together as a community of educators and servant leaders. I know you all have worked hard to assess the needs of your district and the school personnel you serve in Georgia during these unprecedented times. Whether you are leading schools virtually, in-person, or hybrid your involvement and participation in your state and national association will be vital in the coming months. I am so impressed with the work that GASPA has done to maintain networking and resources for its members.

I encourage you all to use this time to develop and advance your practices by staying
connected and sharing resources. If there is a silver lining in this year of change, it will be
in school HR innovation and our deep dedication to the success of the people and kids we serve. In addition, I encourage you all to view each other as a support network. GASPA and AASPA have many opportunities to connect and network and we hope you are taking every advantage you can to find ways to feel energized and ready to take on the next chapter.

I look forward to continuing our important work together. I look forward to the time we can gather together again and more importantly I look forward to hearing all of the amazing stories of success that will emerge from this time.

Please feel free to reach out and let me know how AASPA can assist you. We are always
updating resources and sharing stories of best practices and innovation. We would love to share yours too.


News from the Georgia Association of Leaders


Congratulations to Gary Jenkins
GAEL’S 2021 Jimmy Stokes
Exemplary Service Award


Governor Kemp and DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs find a way to include PreK teachers in the $1000 supplement program from federal funds.

Governor Kemp announces “Teacher Pipeline Package” at the Winter GAEL Conference. We have not seen the Governor’s legislation package on this yet, but we are very encouraged at the initiative taken by the Governor’s office to create more ways to recruit qualified teachers for your students and improve the quality of preparedness of candidates graduating from university teacher preparation programs. Specifically, Governor Kemp is advocating that retired teachers in critical fields be able to return to work at full pay, an initiative for which GAEL has advocated very strongly this year.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Black History Month in Georgia

Educational Leaders have many tasks, but one of the most sacred is to be bearers of the legacies and lessons of our state and nation and share them with the next generation. Our beautiful students are children today, but leaders tomorrow. To prepare them, let’s teach them that we all build today on the history of those who lived and served before us.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

COVID-19 Survey for Georgia School Administrators

The Injury Prevention branch of Georgia Department of Public Health and the Office of Whole Child Supports at GADOE have worked together to develop a brief survey to understand the current stressors as well as resources provided in response to stress experienced by district and school administrators in light of COVID-19. Your responses on this survey will remain anonymous and will help to shape future trainings and activities available for administrators across the state! The survey will be open until Friday, February 12th. Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WJ6CNHD[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Alexander & Company and Growing Leaders, past producers of The Super Summit, are excited to introduce a virtual, NO-COST, three-hour event, Leading When You Feel Like Leaving, and features world-renowned speakers such as John Maxwell, Tim Elmore, and Jean Twenge. More information below, including the link to register. We hope you will join us! The event will be held on February 17, 2021.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

GASPA Membership

GASPA was formed in 1966 as a professional organization for persons working in the field of human resources. GASPA provides up-to-date professional development and resources through statewide conferences and through strong partnerships with state agencies and educational organizations. The association prides itself with opportunities for networking with other HR professionals all across the state as well as in GASPA state regional districts.

Active Membership is $75
Retired Membership is $25
Membership year is July 1 – June 30

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Click here to apply for or renew Membership

For more information contact Wilma Widmer, GASPA Executive Director at
wwidmer0624@gmail.com or at 770-687-1299


Best in Class Awards

The Best in Class Awards for 2020 will be recognized at the Fall conference in December.
See List of Winners

The Best in Class Awards for 2021 will be recognized at the Spring Conference.
See Guidelines


The Spring Conference June 2- 4, 2021

The Conference Planning Committee and the Executive Board have been working with the staff at the King and Prince to consider how another safe conference may be held in June. All current state requirements and restrictions will be reviewed as we move forward.

After considering many factors, a decision to hold the conference at the King and Prince in person or through a series of webinars will be made by early April. The Conference Planning Committee and Executive Board sincerely appreciate the input received from GASPA members for the Fall Conference and the upcoming Spring Conference.

Tonya Maddox from Houston County said: “I definitely look forward to coming twice a year to the conference. It is a great time to reconnect. Also, it is an opportunity to get new ideas and to make sure we are going in the right direction. I feel like everyone has abided by the request to wear masks, so we have been safe.”

Keith Everson from Northeast Georgia RESA shared: “It has been a while since I have been able to attend a GASPA Conference and this one was better than ever! The resources shared were invaluable and the connections are priceless. I will definitely return.”

See Additional Voices from the Conference