In their opening day celebration, Owensboro Public School teachers, staff and administrators gathered at Owensboro High School in advance of the upcoming school year. With each building sitting together, uniquely dressed in T-shirts representing each school, OPS employees heard from former student Julius Maddox and Dr. Nick Brake, who welcomed his district for the last time as Superintendent of Owensboro Public Schools.
Maddox, an OPS alum and record-holding weight lifter, told stories of his days in the district, including a food fight that got him suspended and stealing birthday cake from the teacher’s break room. Although Maddox admitted that a difficult childhood kept him from reaching his potential in school, he said that teachers, many in the room Tuesday, were influential in setting a good example.
“Do what you have to do to water the seeds with these kids,” he told the gym full of OPS employees. “Who else is going to do it?”
After graduating from Owensboro High School, Maddox turned to drugs and landed in jail at a young age. He said it took him going to prison to realize his mistakes. He has since turned his life around and now works for Friends of Sinners helping other men do the same.
“Now it is my turn to give back to troubled kids,” he said of the platform he has gained from his weightlifting career.
Only the second man in history to lift over 700 pounds, Maddox challenged OPS employees to lift up their students.
“OPS is big on excellence,” he said. “I challenge you to keep raising the bar. From janitors to board members, you all have potential for greatness.”
Brake, who announced last month that he will leave OPS at the end of 2019, made his seventh and final welcome to employees.
He reported that 2019-2020 enrollments are healthy and that 97 percent of students had already registered online. Brake also said that last year’s implementation of all day preschool and moving fifth grade to the elementary level were good decisions that made an impact in the last academic year.
Like Maddox, Brake ended his comments with a challenge for his staff.
“Let compassion be the driving force,” he said. “Our words matter. Have courage to demand this from your students.”
Brake, who has not announced his next steps after leaving OPS, said he will spend the semester helping his staff transition. Dr. Matthew Constant, current chief academic officer chosen as interim superintendent effective Jan. 1, 2020, thanked Brake for his service.
“We will stay the course,” Constant said.