The Denton school district’s Central Services Building is being renamed to honor an employee who’s retiring after 41 years with the district and has overseen the hiring of more than 3,000 employees.
Dennis E. Stephens, who retires as the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources at the end of the month, was surprised with the news at a retirement reception Thursday.
At the event, it was officially announced that the facility on Locust Street will be renamed the Dennis E. Stephens Administration Building. The Denton school board on Tuesday voted 7-0 to rename the facility to honor Stephens.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I was in shock.”
Sharon Cox, a school district spokeswoman, said that since Stephens announced his retirement last spring, residents have submitted 750 signatures and numerous letters, e-mail petitions and handwritten notes to recommend naming a building in Stephens’ honor.
District officials estimate that more than 200 people attended Thursday’s reception, which included live music, food and remarks from district officials, former Superintendent Ray Braswell, a representative from state Rep. Myra Crownover’s office and others.
A line of people nearly stretched out the administration building’s front entrance as guests waited to sign a guestbook and write notes of well wishes for Stephens. A large banner reading “Thank You Dennis for 41 Years of Great Service” greeted those entering the facility.
Stephens looked taken aback and surprised at the official announcement about renaming the building. He wiped away tears as guests gave him a standing ovation.
Stephens joined the school district in 1972 as a math teacher at Strickland Middle School. He has also served as a middle school counselor, attendance and safety coordinator, personnel director and executive director of human resources.
“I will tell you that when my mother was alive and when she was completely overjoyed with excitement, she became speechless and the only thing that she could say was ... ‘I’m just so full,’” Stephens said in remarks to reception guests. “I’m just so full, and at this moment I am just so full.”
Stephens’ position will be filled by Richard Valenta, who was hired in November.
“Mr. Stephens was a consummate professional,” Superintendent Jamie Wilson said. “He had an innate ability to really understand the importance of all our employees to the lives of our students, and he made it his personal mission to recruit and retain teachers, quality teachers that had our students’ best interest at heart.”
Board President Mia Price said trustees are pleased to have the Central Services Building bear Stephens’ name.
“We hope all who enter this building will see his name and remember the dedication and professionalism he exhibited throughout his tenure at the Denton ISD,” she said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .