It was day of recollection and memories for longtime Gwinnett educator Dolford Layson.
On Monday, the administrative and clerical staff at Mountain View High School surprised Layson with gifts, a catered lunch and the unofficial proclamation of it being “Dolford Layson Day,” to celebrate his 50 years in the education profession.
Layson, who has spent the last four decades involved in Gwinnett County Public Schools, currently serves as Mountain View’s community school director and is the 6-AAAAAAA region secretary for the Georgia High School Association.
“It’s a very special day and even more so because it’s Dolford,” Mountain View High School principal Keith Chaney said. “I’ve known him my entire career over the past 25 years. He’s kind of like family and has so much wisdom.”
For Layson, walking into Mountain View and receiving a reception that included guests wearing T-shirts bearing his picture, a table full of gifts and several of his close friends was out of the something he said he never thought would happen.
“I had no idea this was coming,” Layson said. “It’s truly special to be appreciated by your community like this.”
Layson came to the education profession not only to teach, but also to coach.
He began his teaching career in 1968 at a youth development center before accepting a job at Georgia Military College, a military junior college, high school and middle school located in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Two years later, he arrived in Gwinnett where he has actively been involved in the school system for the past four decades, teaching health and physical education to students in addition to coaching basketball before receiving the opportunity to become an administrator.
Layson spent 13 years at Berkmar High School, 10 of which as an assistant principal and athletic director. He moved to Brookwood in the same capacity for three years from 1984-1987.
He credits a lot of his opportunities to a conversation he had with the late Carl Vinson, a former U.S. Congressman from Baldwin County.
“He told me to make sure I developed relationships,” Layson said. “For me that was something that really stood out to me and I stuck to it.”
Over the years, Layson has been recognized in the local athletic community.
He is the brains behind hiring Dave Hunter, former head coach and athletic director of Brookwood High School, who won the first football state championship in Gwinnett County Public School history in 1996.
In addition, he spent a large portion of his time building up Bethesda Park, a feeder park for both Berkmar and Brookwood residents, located on Bethesda Church Road in Lilburn.
In 2006, Layson was honored by park officials and had one of the fields named after him.
Layson said former GCPS superintendent Dr. Alton C. Crews told him to hire good people and get out of the way and let them do their jobs.
“It’s been a great ride,” Layson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work in a good situation with a lot of good people.”
Layson fondly remembers is his time as principal at Dacula High School from 1987 until his retirement in 2000.
“Dacula was a great experience because the students there appreciated everything,” Layson said. “If you did something for them they’d thank you and the parental support was a lot different than it is now.”
Chaney said that Layson was the person that started his career in education, first hiring him as a teacher and also as an assistant principal.
When Mountain View first opened its doors in 2009, Layson and longtime friend Coley Krug were the first two community school directors.
“Because of his ties to the community there are a lot of people that he has hired as teachers in the past that have come here,” Chaney said. “He was like another principal that we had on our staff just because of his experience.”
Chaney said Mountain View Administrative Assistant Dianne Schatell did a large portion of the planning to make sure “Dolford Layson Day,” went without a hitch.
“We had known that he had been involved in education for a long time and wanted to do something,” Chaney said. “The toughest part was making sure we got him here and surprised him at the same time.”
After more than 50 years of helping as an educator, Layson doesn’t have a set timetable when he will fully leave schools. Since his retirement in 2000, he has spent nine years as a part time assistant principal at Maxwell School of Technology and the past nine at Mountain View, a place he looks foward to going to each day.
“This a great school system,” Layson said. “I’m going to keep doing this until I find that it isn’t fun or enjoyable anymore.”