PILOT MOUNTAIN —Surry County students head back to school on Monday, just a few days too late to see their superintendent breakdance on stage.
Travis Reeves shared this special skill near the conclusion of the school system’s 2016 convocation Thursday morning.
The annual rite typically features student performers, but this year’s event was written, produced, directed and performed entirely by Surry County Schools employees.
It proved to be an energizing change of pace for the audience packed inside the Pilot Mountain Middle School auditorium.
That was the point of changing the format, said Sonia Dickerson, director of communications, teacher quality and instructional media, who organized the event.
“I always want them to walk away from this program feeling fresh and ready to begin a new year,” Dickerson said of the faculty and staff. “I wanted them to be psyched.”
By “rocking and rolling through the decades,” the program highlighted the history of the school system while emphasizing the theme of “one voice.”
Starting with the 50s and moving decade by decade through the years, each segment began with Reeves describing what schools were like during that time period.
Regulations changed and technology developed as time marched forward.
For example, in the 80s, the first classroom computers were installed.
“Raise your hand if you remember the TRS-80,” asked the superintendent.
His mention of the California Achievement Test implemented in that era was met with widespread groans, but from every era, pointing out state championships won by various schools had the opposite reaction.
Segments also included interviews with with school board members and other honored guests, such as June S. Atkinson, N.C. State Superintendent, Kevin Via, principal of the year and Mason Midkiff, teacher of the year, whose high school yearbook photos were projected while they spoke.
Sexton Coe, a school board member who served as chairman for 14 years, received a standing ovation.
“Enjoy your job,” he said to those in the audience. “You keep (the students) going,” he said. “For some, a kind word, a kind smile from you is all they get in a day. Kids are the most important thing in your job.”
Each segment was punctuated by performances of iconic musical selections from each decade, including “The Twist,” and the Beatles in the 50s and 60s; tunes from the film “Grease” and Creedence Clearwater Revival in the 70s; Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” in the 80s; Green Day in the 90s.
Jeff Tunstall, Surry County Schools assistant superintendent, pulled Atkinson on stage while singing an Elvis Presley song, changing the words to “I can’t help falling in love with ‘June.’”
Bringing things into the modern era, Courtney Tunstall, a Rockford Elementary teacher, ended “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem, with a mic drop, and Renee Henry, a school counselor, wowed the crowd with Adele’s “Hello.”
The program culminated with a singalong to Barry Manilow’s “One Voice,” with the convocation choir and band onstage.
“It was awesome,” said Sherry Stanley, who has worked in the White Plains Elementary School cafeteria for 23 years.
Heading back to work after the show, Stanley said the convocation left her with “just an overall good feeling to go back and share with those who didn’t come.”
Surry County Commissioner Van Cook pulled April Chilton, school nurse and convocation choir soloist, aside after the event to compliment her performance.
“Best convocation I’ve ever been to,” Cook told Chilton. “It was lighthearted, entertaining, absolutely on target, on message — one voice. It was absolutely entertaining.”
The convocation was bittersweet for Debby Diamont, chorus and theater arts teacher who will be retiring in a few days.
Diamont led the convocation choir and was impressed with the employees’ talent.
“Their former music teachers would be proud,” she said. “Their legacy continues.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.