HCDE Leaders Honor Outstanding Employees at Celebration of Excellence Banquet

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/28/2024, 12:06 p.m.
Laughter and camaraderie filled the air at the Harris County Department of Education’s (HCDE) second annual Celebration of Excellence banquet …

 Laughter and camaraderie filled the air at the Harris County Department of Education’s (HCDE) second annual Celebration of Excellence banquet on May 23. This special event is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the outstanding achievements of HCDE employees who have demonstrated a shared commitment to serving the community and empowering the students of Harris County throughout the school year.

Celebrating Excellence

Superintendent James Colbert Jr. kicked off the evening with heartfelt opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the exceptional contributions of HCDE staff. “We are a rather large organization, and throughout the year, we have people who rise to the top, and their peers typically identify them,” Colbert said. “The Celebration of Excellence is our chance to bring everyone together, recognize them as one, and thank them for their dedication.”

Forty-one employees from HCDE’s five instructional divisions—Adult Education, Head Start, Special Schools, School-Based Therapy Services, and the Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids)—along with the 2023-2024 Employees of the Month, were honored at the event. Each received certificates of appreciation in front of their colleagues and loved ones, celebrating their hard work and dedication.

Honoring the Lifelines of HCDE

Norma Rodriguez, an executive administrative assistant, was among those recognized. Known for being a “lifeline” of necessary resources and assistance, Rodriguez has been instrumental in managing and supporting more than five divisions and several Department-wide events throughout the year. As the January Employee of the Month, she reflected on the significance of the celebration. “This celebration shows that HCDE really does appreciate their employees and the hard work that’s completed daily,” Rodriguez said. “Not everyone gets an opportunity to work for a place like this, and it’s fulfilling. I’m right where I want to be.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Brenna Kollmorgen, an occupational therapist with nearly 30 years of service at HCDE. Presented by School-Based Therapy Services Senior Director Carie Crabb, the award recognized Kollmorgen’s long-standing dedication to helping elementary students with disabilities succeed in school. “When you’re a therapist for so long, it truly becomes a part of you,” Crabb said. “This award recognizes how passionate most of us are about school-based therapy, and when our employees dedicate more than 20 and 30 years of their lives to students, we want to honor that.”

Kollmorgen, who has served students in Klein and Spring Branch independent school districts, expressed her surprise and humility upon receiving the award. As she prepares to retire at the end of the academic year, she reflected on her meaningful journey. “These kids teach me what life is about because they don’t know life any differently,” Kollmorgen said emotionally. “It’s been a wonderful journey serving this population of students with HCDE, and seeing them reach their potential helps me know that I’m doing the right thing.”

Looking Ahead

As the evening came to a close, Superintendent Colbert thanked all the employees for their continued dedication to HCDE and their commitment to bettering the lives of Harris County students. “Our employees get fired up about the thought of perfection and excellence,” Colbert said. “We will be the 1%, and we take the notion that we can change the world seriously. I believe we will do it one student at a time.”

For more information about HCDE and its programs, visit [HCDE's website](https://hcde-texas.org).