Flud is most improved student, Morris is staff member of the year

Taft Union High School junior Suzette Flud was honored as most improved student and Gary Morris, the retiring director of Maintenance, Operation and Transportation, was feted as the staff member of the year at the fall Renaissance rally last week in Mullen gym. The rally celebrates academics.

Suzette improved her grade point average by 1.43 points, according to Greg Goossen, Renaissance team coordinator. Suzette was not happy with her fall semester grades during her sophomore year. She said, "I'm going to try harder. I didn't want to make the same mistake." She said she dropped down from English honors and World History honors to college prep and changed another class so she could begin her day with an art class since she loved to draw. "I did a lot better."

Still, she was surprised that her grade point average improved more than any other Taft High student. "I was very shocked." She was sick and not planning to attend school the day of the rally but her mom convinced her to go. "She kept it a secret for a week," Flud said in amazement. Flud received a $150 Visa gift card and a bag of art supplies from Renaissance. She plans to take a web design class from Taft College online in the spring and then attend TC after she graduates from TUHS. Then she plans to attend the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland for a career in graphic design.

Morris, 60, has been a key player at Taft High, serving in several different roles since he attended in 1968-72. As a student, he was the first league champion in wrestling and was runner-up in Valley. He served on the Board of Trustees for 10 years before accepting his current position, which he has held for 91/2 years. A professional photographer, he takes school dance photos and team sports portraits as well as donating action sports photos to the yearbook. He also founded the school's trap shooting club and he volunteers with the Future Farmers of America. He plans to continue the photography and advising the trap-shooting club during retirement. He and his wife Coleen have been married for 35 years and have a daughter, Cory, and three grandchildren, who were all there to congratulate him.

His avocation was appropriate because the theme of the rally was "Duck Dynasty," and included camouflage shirts and plenty of duck calls.

Morris received a $300 Visa gift card from Renaissance and a golf foursome at Seven Oaks from Jostens.

Dozens of Top Cats — students with a GPA above 4.0 in the spring 2013 semester — were honored.

Students nominated by staff for good attitudes and staff nominated by students wore T-shirts they received for their positive attitudes.

The most entertaining aspect of the rally was the last half hour when a hypnotist, who goes by the stage name Hypnotwyz, hypnotized student volunteers and instructed them to sleep, lick dripping ice cream off their forearms, watch the funniest movie they had ever seen, then the saddest, tour a haunted house, model, and dance.

Several of the students said they remembered very little from their hypnotic-induced antics. Hypnotwyz said they would have the best sleep of their life afterward and senior Sierra Holmes said, "That was the best sleep ever. It felt like I was asleep for the entire night each time (he put me to sleep)." Sophomore Jeremy Wilmer added, "I felt like I was dreaming. I slept like a baby last night (the following night). I had slobber all over my pillow."