Brian Jay, the recipient of the Bill Gullett Memorial Grant gives Will Gullet, the son of Bill Gullet, a hug after receiving the award. [CAROLINE OGLESBY/ TIMESDAILY]

FLORENCE — When Florence Board of Education member Bill Gullett died last month, his family didn't want people to send flowers.

Instead, they requested donations be made to the Florence Education Foundation.

That may have created a Florence City Schools tradition in honor of Gullett, who had a passion for the school system.

During a Florence Middle School program Wednesday, the foundation awarded the Bill Gullett Memorial Grant to Brian Jay, the school's instrumental music and band instructor.

Jay said he is honored to receive the grant of more than $2,000, especially considering its namesake.

"It's a very rewarding and humbling experience," Jay said. "Knowing Mr. Gullett as a board member, as an educator, to see someone who truly had a servant's heart for our children and this school system, to see his legacy, values and beliefs funnel through everything in our school district, particularly everything in this grant, is a very rewarding experience."

Jay said the grant will go toward digital technology equipment that will assist in instruction in all aspects of music. It also will help enhance the concepts that are judged in the state spring assessment.

"With it, we're able to demonstrate to the students and give them very good references in these fields, and foster in them better ensemble tone quality, intonation, tempo control, rhythm accuracy and note accuracy," he said.

In addition, it will be a time-management tool for instructors.

"Not every instrument is played the same way, and as one person trying to teach seven to 10 instruments, it can be very difficult," Jay said. "It's quite a juggling act. This device allows us to kind of streamline that and not lose instructional time."

Foundation Executive Director Nikki Mann said Gullett was among a small group who created the foundation in 2004.

"Since 2004, we have given away to Florence City Schools teachers over a half-million dollars," Mann said. "The foundation continues to grow and thrive each year, and it's all because of the dedication he and others have put in."

Jodi McDaniel, a past vice president of the foundation, said the organization would not have existed without Gullett, so the programs that are made possible to it will serve as reminders of his impact on the school system.

"His legacy literally will live on," McDaniel said. "This is the seed he planted, and we're going to see that fruit live on."

Mann said the grant initially was intended as a one-time donation to honor Gullett, who died Oct. 4, but could turn into an annual award.

"More than the money, I think today it was about honoring his memory," Mann said. "People can still donate to this in his name. We could end up doing this as a yearly thing."

Donation information is available at florenceeducationfoundation.org.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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