While students won’t return to classes until Wednesday, the 200-plus voices talking at the same time in the cafeteria at Mount Airy High School Friday morning was a familiar sound, heralding the start of another school year.
But it wasn’t the voices of teens creating the cacophony in the lunchroom, rather faculty and staff of the city’s schools, as they gathered for their annual convocation.
Addressing his staff, School Superintendent Dr. Greg Little acknowledged that educators have been facing an uphill battle in the face of changing curricula and tightening budgets, but he said he was honored to be in their presence.
“Educators have taken a beating lately, but there’s no where I’d rather be right now than in this room with this group of people,” he said, momentarily setting aside his upbeat address to the group.
Following breakfast in the cafeteria, the group of educators moved to the high school’s auditorium, where Little had set up a presentation celebrating last year’s accomplishments.
Little noted that the theme for the city schools during the upcoming year is “Building Community Leaders and Learners,” and said the system has a lot to celebrate, citing the 88.2 percent proficiency rate in science at J.J. Jones Intermediate School; the fact that Mount Airy Middle School sports teams won 78 percent of their contests; and the 91.3 percent graduation rate, six state championships and National Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence at Mount Airy High School.
“None of these things would have been possible without the dedicated people in this room,” he said.
But he urged his staff not to sit on their laurels this year.
“We cannot be satisfied with being one of the best districts in our region, or our state,” he said. “Our goal is to be national leaders in education.”
And to accomplish this goal, Little said he wants his staff to focus on three things during the upcoming school year:
• Strategic planning that involves members of the community and parents.
“The goal of our strategic planning will be to clarify our mission, goals and where we want to be.
• Collaboration with other teachers and staff in the system.
“We want you to focus on collaboration and communication with your colleagues to ensure the success of every student,” he said. “Professional learning communities (teams of teachers who work together) isn’t just a meeting it’s a culture. Use your experience and expertise to improve the learning experience of both teachers and students.”
• Continuing education and willingness to learn.
“Learn, learn, learn,” Little said emphatically. “Don’t forget the ‘yet’ when you hear your students struggling. It’s all about learning. If you think you have it all figured out, you’re going to be struggling in the Mount Airy school system over the next couple of years.”
Closing his remarks, Little said that student success depends on three things.
“How you learn, how you collaborate and how you plan,” he said.
But it was a sleepy student, up for the early-morning meeting, that perhaps delivered Little’s message best.
During his welcoming remarks, rising senior Garrett VanHoy pointed to people in the room who changed his life.
“I’m here today because of the excellent education I’ve received in the Mount Airy City Schools,” he said, naming several educators in the crowd by name.
“(They) instilled a love of learning in me that continues to this day.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.