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Harford school officials got the Thanksgiving holiday started earlier this week, going from room to room at a handful of schools and offices to thank the staff for what they do.

Superintendent Sean Bulson and Chief of Administration Eric Davis led the first “Grati-Tour” of about two dozen senior staff, community and business leaders and others from Hickory Elementary to Forest Lakes then Forest Hill before ending at the Forest Hill and Hickory annexes.

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“This is the Grati-Tour — we’re just coming to say thank you for what you do,” Davis told a teacher at Forest Hill Elementary.

Chrystie Crawford-Smick, president of the Harford County Education Association; Renee DeBiase, president of the Harford County Council of PTAs; Warren Hamilton, director of business development for Oak Contracting and a member of the Harford County Education Foundation; and others spent about three hours at the five facilities shaking hands and saying thanks.

Many appeared skeptical at first, when a handful of people walked into their classroom or office, curious why they were there.

Not David Petr, who works at the film and library processing center at the Forest Hill annex.

“Wow, this is fantastic, this is a great time,” Petr said. “Thanks for coming up, this is cool. You made by day.”

As part of the tour — a product of a task force led by Davis to improve customer service internally and externally — senior staff and others will visit a handful of schools each month, spending about a half hour at each offering thanks.

The tour is sponsored by Chick-fil-A, and representatives from the restaurant handed out gift cards at some offices and left trays of brownies and cookies at the schools.

The first tour was scheduled to coincide with National Education Support Professionals Day and a special presentation at Forest Hill Elementary.

Forest Hill Elementary School teacher Pamela Lopez, center, speaks for a moment after receiving the HCPS Support Services Superstar Award as APG Federal Credit Union representative Liz Monti, left, and Jean Mantegna, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, right, look on as they stand on the smal televesion studio at Forest Hill Elementary School Wednesday morning.
Forest Hill Elementary School teacher Pamela Lopez, center, speaks for a moment after receiving the HCPS Support Services Superstar Award as APG Federal Credit Union representative Liz Monti, left, and Jean Mantegna, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, right, look on as they stand on the smal televesion studio at Forest Hill Elementary School Wednesday morning. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Paraeducator Pamela Lopez was surprised with a $200 check from Aberdeen Proving Ground Federal Credit Union, recognition for being one of 15 people out of 1,500 eligible to receive the Harford County Public Schools Support Services Superstar Award.

“She helps all kinds of students in so many ways, from their heads to their hearts,” Forest Hill Elementary Principal Marc Hamilton said.

“While we have so many people who work for us, to know that we have some real superstars, thank you for being one of them, and you represent the group very well,” Bulson said as the award was presented.

After visiting three schools, Davis said he was pleased with how the tour was going.

“We absolutely love it,” he said. “The staff really appreciate us just coming to say ‘thank you,’ that’s the purpose of this. It’s been a great day.”

Being able to say thank you to the school system’s employees is something that’s not done often enough, the superintendent said.

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“It’s a simple process, but I think it’s a really important statement,” Bulson said. “It’s an act of gratitude for the people who do so much for our kids. It’s nice to take some time out to do that.”

It’s done not only with the staff in mind, but also the students, he said.

“You can’t help others feel valued if you don’t feel valued yourself,” Bulson said. “We rely on our teachers, para-educators, custodians, secretaries every day to make students feel welcome and valued in the school they are in. If we don’t treat them the same way, it’s much harder for them to pass that sentiment on to the students.”

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