The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
From inside the front office at Port Neches-Groves High School comes the all too familiar voice of Debbie Miller.
For the past 20 years Miller has worked as the admissions clerk at the high school taking on various duties such as logging in visitors and delivering the morning greeting over the intercom system to calling and scheduling substitute teachers, answering phone calls and even collecting confiscated cell phones.
Even those who have never met her face-to-face would likely recognize her voice should they call the school. “Welcome to Port Neches-Groves High School” — the familiar greeting comes from Miller, the “voice” of PN-G High School.
Miller is set to retire from the district this month; her last day on the job is Friday, Jan. 17.
“This is a sad week,” Miller said as a look of nostalgia plays across her face.
Miller was hired in two decades ago about the time the district switched to an automated telephone system.
“They told me they were hiring me for the voice of the school district,” she said adding that the job evolved some and she ended up at the high school where she took on the famous role.
Miller and her husband Don grew up in Nederland and moved to PN-GISD when their children were young. Then Don transferred to Houma, La. for his job. It was while in Louisiana that Debbie and Don noticed how personable the staff at their children’s private school was. The family moved back to Texas two years later.
“She entered the position (at the high school) influenced by her own experience while transferring and enrolling our children into schools in Houma, La. The admissions clerks made all efforts to create a positive experience in an event that wasn’t the most pleasant for our children, leaving PN-G schools,” Don Miller said in an e-mail to The Port Arthur News. “Debbie has always viewed her position as a ministry of service to both the teachers and every person that enters the front doors of PN-GHS.”
Her position at the school has led her to greet visitors with a smile directing them to the proper department, discussion to make them comfortable and ministering to those who share difficult decisions.
“Her job duties have evolved through the years but the one non-written job duty has remained the same ... make all efforts to create a positive experience for everyone entering PN-GHS,” he said.
Peggy Selman will take Miller’s place as admissions clerk and is working side-by-side with her this week as part of her training. Miller, a very detailed person, has binders filled with instructions and other helpful information to which Selman is very grateful.
“I have some big shoes to fill but I don’t know of anybody who can fill those shoes,” Selman said. “Miss Miller is a saint, she really is. She’s a Christian lady and everything is God driven. I’m really blessed to have had a chance to work with her this week.”
Marc Keith, who has been principal at the high school for the past eight years, called Miller a “great lady.”
“She is a consummate professional and a great Christian lady who has the right personality for the position,” Keith said. “She’’s always calm, handles everything professionally and has never met a stranger.”
Miller echoed her husband’s words when speaking of her job as admissions clerk, calling the job a ministry of sorts.
“I get here before 6 a.m. and get of at 2 p.m. and I call the sub’s (substitute teachers) in the morning. This has allowed me to get to know the teachers and their needs because sometimes things happen to which you need to find a substitute,” Miller said. “This job has evolved and I see it was a ministry.”
Being pleasant when greeting the public is top on her list because of several things — you set the tone for the whole conversation and you never know what the other person is going through on the other end of the phone line.
“You have to treat people as individuals,” she said. “We’ve experienced a lot on this campus in 20 years, it’s like a family. You cry together, you smile together, sometimes you offend each other.”
Miller’s husband retired from his job a year ago and now the couple will have more time to spend with family and friends, she said.