Steve Benton – Students come first

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Shelia Mader

Shelia Mader

Sports Editor

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Steve Benton – Students come first

Educators are often considered the teachers you see in and out of the classroom, standing in front of 20 students, lecturing, teaching, and more than likely a little praying that the students are grasping what they are attempting to teach.  That is where many educators start and finish.  Not so with this week’s teacher feature.  Steve Benton started his trip through education at the age of 19 when he was a student at Chipola College and began driving a school bus for the Jackson County School system. 

That is where Benton’s career began but where it ends is yet to be told.  Benton moved from the driver’s seat of the bus to the classroom.  From the classroom, he settled into an assistant principal’s position, with his next step behind the principal’s desk.  Oddly, Benton spent very little time behind the desk. Following some time in Alabama, Benton returned to seek the office of superintendent in Jackson County and won his election in 2012.

As a principal in the 90s at Marianna High School, he was visible from the early morning duty hours until well after the lights were turned off on a Friday night at Bulldog Stadium and the last car left the parking lot.  Same was true of baseball, basketball, you name it.

Equally as important to Benton was the student’s success in the classroom.  Benton was as visible in the classrooms as he was in the various sporting arenas.  Benton was there with “Congratulations, great job,” for classroom excellence as quickly as he was for the go-ahead touchdown or a player’s first homerun.  Academics and sports both held a piece of his heart, along with the fine arts and FFA and agriculture.  Benton saw each area impact students and knew the importance of a well-rounded program.  Perhaps, that is why his last ‘assignment’ was as superintendent of Jackson County Schools.  He worked tirelessly balancing a budget to include all aspects of education.  He implemented art programs in more schools than when he took office.  Benton was an ever-present teacher, administrator, and superintendent.  

His tenure at MHS will not soon be forgotten. When he was principal at the ‘old’ Marianna High School, the teachers and staff ate at a corner table of the lunchroom with the students.  There would be administrators and school resource officers on duty as well in the lunchroom.  One day as told by a coach at MHS, “There was a student acting up and he continued to get louder and louder and more disruptive.  Mr. Benton sat there eating his lunch and as the kid got even louder, he called the SRO over to the table where we were eating and said to him, ‘Go get that kid, cuff him and take him out of here till I get done with my lunch.’  The officer did as he was told and I don’t ever remember another kid acting up in the lunchroom.  Yes, sir his methods were very effective and always fair.”

Another student tells a different side of Benton, “We had a bully of sorts at school, every school has them.  One day this kid’s walking down the hallway and just walks up to a much smaller kid and shoves him with his body into the lockers.  The kid is obviously embarrassed but doesn’t say anything, keeps on walking.  Right down the hall I saw Mr. Benton and he was taking it all in.  I figured that kid was fixing to get called in to the office for sure.  The bully never saw Mr. Benton, he was busy looking for his next ‘nerd’.  As he got close to Mr. Benton he was looking across the hallway and Mr. Benton took one step to the left and the kid walked right into him.  Now, Mr. Benton wasn’t a small man and you could tell he was pretty stout so when that bully hit him head on without any warning, he bounced off him and onto the floor he went.  Mr. Benton reached out his hand to him, pulled him up, and said, ‘Sorry man, you okay?’  The kid looked at him like he wanted to say something else but just said, yes, sir and walked away.  I couldn’t help but have a whole new respect for that man that day.”  

Benton left the office of superintendent in November 2016 following his defeat by Larry Moore on his re-election bid after 48 years of service to education.  Benton says of his times, “I’ve spent my entire adult life working with students, teachers and parents. In 44 years of service, I have taught, coached, driven a bus, and become an administrator.” Benton married Jerri Gordon Benton, who is an art instructor at Marianna High School.

Rahal Miller is now Miller-Miller

The commercial from many moons ago said, “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet” still rings in the ears of the older generation.  The commercial is dated, much like the Chevrolet dealership located in Marianna, Florida.

Harrison Chevrolet opened in the 1930s and remained Harrison Chevrolet until the 1973 when the late Quen Rahal moved to Marianna and entered into a partnership with Creshull Harrison, Senior. The transition took some time due to requirements by Chevrolet.  The time passed and soon Harrison Chevrolet became Rahal Chevrolet.  Fast forward in time to 1993.  Ricky Miller was hired by Rahal as a salesman and the bond began.  From salesman in just a few short years, Miller became partner with Rahal and the bond between the two grew even deeper.  Ricky Miller mourned the loss of his business father, and years later went through mourning again over Ann Rahal, wife of Quen.

In an interview with the TIMES, the older Miller (Ricky) said, “Quen Rahal was a great man, just like his wife Ann was a wonderful lady.  I would not be where I am today without their love and support that I had while they were on this earth.  He (Quen) taught me how to treat people, how to run a business, and opened the business up to me.  He loved my son Dustin and my wife Tami.  He said many times how he wanted me to know everything he knew because this (dealership) would be ours one day.  That day has come and Rahal Miller is now Miller Miller.  We will strive to make sure we continue to do everything to keep our loyal customers satisfied and happy.”  

One thing remained solid in his life, to keep the business prosperous and growing and that they have done.  Ricky and Tami Miller worked side by side after the passing of Ann Rahal with Ricky’s reasoning that he wanted Tami to be a part of the business, knowledgeable of the inner workings of the business.  In 2016, their son Dustin Miller, graduated from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and knew immediately where his future would land him.  He is now the other half of Miller-Miller, the change from Rahal-Miller coming last week.  

Miller-Miller will soon be breaking ground on the new Nissan dealership soon with Dustin Miller taking over that dealership with Ricky Miller keeping the Chevrolet dealership under his management.

Ron Mitchell is assistant principal at MHS

The Jackson County School Board met Tuesday afternoon in a combined board meeting and workshop due to summer scheduling of training for staff.  One of the items scheduled for a vote under personnel was the move of Ron Mitchell from assistant principal at Jackson Alternative School to Marianna High School as assistant principal.   The Board voted 4-0 with Tony Pumphrey not present to vote.  

Mitchell brings a wealth of experience to the job.  He is a 1980 graduate of Marianna High School, received his AA degree from Chipola, his B.S. degree from Troy State University, M.Ed from the University of West Florida, and Ed.S from the University of West Florida.  

Mitchell’s work history is quite extensive also.  He was a teacher/transition specialist at Dozier School and JJOCC from 1999-2005 and a Diagnostic Specialist for Washington County Schools at Dozier and JJOCC from 2005-2007.  He was a Principal Designee for Washington County Schools at Dozier and JJOCC from 2007 to 2011 before moving to Marianna High School as a TSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in administration from 2011-2012.  From 2012 to 2015 he was assistant principal at MHS before transferring to Jackson Alternative School as assistant principal.  

Mitchell holds certification in psychology grades 6-12, Exceptional Student Education (ESE), Educational Leadership (all levels) and School Principal (all levels).

Superintendent of Schools Larry Moore said of Mitchell’s appointment, “I am excited that he is moving over to Marianna High School.  He will be an asset to the students and the faculty there.  He has a sincere desire to make Jackson County School system and Marianna High School the best he can be.  He’s an outstanding individual, wonderful person, and a really good school leader.  I look forward to having him in that capacity.”

Mitchell will join Sybil Rivers as assistant principal, John Donaldson as TSA, and Hunter Nolen as Principal for the 2017-18 school year. 


  • Published in Sports

The rains didn’t dampen the spirits or diminish the play of a determined group of the Graceville Angels Monday night in Wewahitchka as they put together back-to-back wins in soaking wet uniforms to bring home the District Championship!  

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins with rain throughout most of the game, but it mattered not to a determined group of Angels because they wanted all the marbles. That is exactly what they got!  Graceville scored three runs in the first inning, third, and fifth innings with four crossing the plate in the fourth, outscoring their opponent Wewa 13-10.  

Hits were not as plentiful as the free passes with the Graceville Angels picking up eight hits to 15 walks, and two hit batters in route to their victory.

Leading the team in hits was Haley Williams who picked up two singles and added two walks, followed by Jaz Cruz with two walks and one hit.  On board with a walk, a hit by pitch, and a hit was Brianna Adams, with Emily Maddox picking up two free passes on the night.  Vanessa Rollins had a walk and an extra base hit, with Kylie Carter picking up a walk, a hit, and taking one for the team.  Mia Fountain and Laura Laycox both had a hit, while Samaiyah Wilson, Toni Wesley and Audrey Hamilton all picked up two walks each.  

After drying out from last night’s double header, the Graceville Angels will be back on the practice field getting ready for the State Tournament.  State will be held in Bristol this year starting July 7 and concluding July 11.  The team will be accepting donations to help offset the cost of daily travel to and from the ballpark, eats, and other expenses.  You may contact any team member or the City of Graceville.  

Congratulations to the Graceville Angels on their District Championship from the publisher and staff of the Jackson County Times. 

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