Many came together Sunday to commemorate the beginning of one journey, as the Paducah Middle School project has officially been completed, and to celebrate the end and legacy of a man who had a direct hand in its success.
School, district and community members as well as civic and political leaders gathered Sunday afternoon in the school's cafeteria to dedicate the 92,000-square foot Paducah Middle School on Lone Oak Road and honor outgoing Superintendent Randy Greene. He announced plans to end his tenure with the city school system in November when his current contract ends on June 31.
He thanked attendees for a decade of hard work, dedication and growth in a truly special district and city.
"There is no limit to what this community and this school system can do if everyone pulls together and strives for the same goals," he said. "The citizens of Paducah are blessed by the opportunities provided here educationally, spiritually, culturally and historically."
Assistant Superintendent Donald Shively, who will take over the superintendent position on July 1, said the completion of the new middle school represents the capstone achievement of Greene's tenure. He said the district decided to hold the dedication at the conclusion of the first year to wait until the front parking lot, bus loop and green space were completed.
"Thank you for everything you have done for each and every one of our students," he told Greene.
Local and state leaders involved in the 10-year ordeal to complete the new facility spoke about the long and often frustrating process to secure state funding for the project.
William Black Sr., former school board member, recited the long history of school buildings that have sat on the current middle school site that stretched about a century. He called that educational history as a "symbol of change and flexibility."
"Greene's vision and tenacity were present from beginning to end," he said.
Speakers emphasized the impact that strong community support had on leaders making the hard decision to raise school taxes, close Cooper-Whiteside Elementary School and consolidate students due to low enrollment.
District officials thanked local and state leaders, including Sen. Bob Leeper and Rep. Brent Housman, who worked to ensure the district received $13 million toward the $22 million project in state money. Every speaker also acknowledged the positive impact of Greene and the school board's perseverance in appealing for support to upgrade an old and inferior middle school building.
School board member and former chairman Danette Humphrey commended Greene's focus on improving and updating the district's older historic buildings in his typical quiet, unassuming demeanor.
"A steady stream of progress without fanfare is what a great leader does," she said. "The leader might not be given the spotlight, but he is always pushing toward progress every day."
Leeper, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the resources and technology available in the new school represent a large scale commitment to student success.
"It's a beautiful fantastic building, but at the end of the day, it's just a building without the people that really make it sing," Leeper said.
Greene was given two wooden stakes from board member Felix Akojie, one to plant a tree on the middle school lawn and one at Paducah Tilghman High School, and Rep. Gerald Watkins presented him an award for outstanding service to one's community, state or nation. Greene along with wife Heather were named Duke and Duchess of Paducah by Mayor Gayle Kaler during the ceremony.
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.