Liberty County School System teachers and other school employees were “welcomed aboard ship LCSS” during a rousing, nautical-themed convocation Tuesday, the day before the 2013-14 school year began.
“We have a great faculty and staff; I was quite pleased by their participation and enthusiasm,” Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said.
Each school’s faculty and staff sat elbow-to-elbow in a section of Bradwell Institute’s gym, called upon to cheer during the motivational event when their school’s name was announced. Teachers and school employees wore matching T-shirts, with each school dressed in varying colors to distinguish one school from another. School-board members and some administrators sported white skippers’ hats. A round life buoy sign adorned the front of the dais.
“The (nautical) theme came to me one morning as I was reviewing data and information about our school system,” Lee said. “I thought about the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) waiver that the Georgia Department of Education received from the U.S. Department of Education and the implications therein for how schooling must be done now that we are no longer under the No Child Left Behind mandate. I also considered the Common Core State Standards, and other new initiatives with which school districts are faced. After reviewing the recently released CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) scores for each school in LCSS — honing in on school year 2012-13 student performance data — I began to brainstorm what we could do to improve our percentages for each performance indicator and how we could replicate our successes across the district.
“It came to me that as head of this district, I needed to pull the pieces together — chart a course and develop a strategic direction — for our continuous improvement efforts,” the superintendent continued. “Knowing full well that I cannot do it alone, I began to look at how each administrator, teacher and support-staff member could and should ‘navigate the course.’ My desire is for LCSS to become one of the highest-performing districts in the nation. For us to realize that goal, we must place a mark of excellence on everything we do.”
Before launching into her convocation speech, Lee first informed system personnel that school employee Patricia Hawkins was “going to be OK.” Emergency responders had been called to the school before the convocation began. Hawkins was placed on a gurney and loaded into an ambulance.
Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said Hawkins apparently felt “a little light-headed” just before the start of the district’s pep rally.
Lee said in an email that the school system would reserve comment regarding what might have caused Hawkins to fall ill.
“Suffice it to say that we are very pleased to know she is doing better, and we are hopeful for a full recovery,” Lee said.
In her convocation speech, Lee said some changes would be made in order for the system to move forward, and she would hold staff and students to “the highest level of excellence and accountability.”
“High-performing district leaders and administrators understand the need to retool teaching and learning, because the students we now serve are different from those of yesteryear,” Lee said. “These 21st-century learners require more of us, and we must require more of them to ensure their success and their ability to compete in our global society. Therein lies the fruition of our theme, ‘Navigating a Course of Excellence: Developing the 21st-Century Learner.’”
The Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute marching bands and cheerleaders performed at the system-wide pep rally. A group of harmonizing teachers formed a choir and sang a number of songs. Pastor Hermon Scott of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church offered the invocation, praying for the “ship’s” precious cargo, its students. Scott also is vice president of the United Ministerial Alliance.
School board Chairwoman Lily Baker told a sentimental story of how one caring teacher dramatically changed the life of a student. The fictional child, “Johnny,” began school with enthusiasm, but his academic progress faltered when he experienced personal loss and other trauma. The fictional teacher decided not to label the student as a hopeless case, and instead worked hard to reach him. Eventually, he improved, and after he moved away, he remembered his favorite teacher’s compassion. The teacher was invited to Johnny’s high-school graduation, college and medical-school graduations and to his wedding.
Liberty County public-school students returned to class Wednesday.