VISD's convocation focuses on unity (video)
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GRANT MONEY AWARDED AT CONVOCATION
Grant name: Kennel Publications Project
School awarded: Cade Middle School
Grant name: Operation iTouch
School awarded: Chandler Elementary School
Grant name: Shields and Shielded in Virtues and Honor
School awarded: Shields Elementary School
Yesenia Yanez held the doors open to Faith Family Church on Wednesday morning to welcome employees to the Victoria school district's annual pep rally to start the school year.
"Everybody seems pretty happy and there's a lot of different schools here today," said Yesenia, a cheerleader and junior at Victoria West High School.
The school district uses the convocation as an opportunity to not only kick off the school year, but also to redefine and make its mission clear to teachers and staff.
Classes start Aug. 27.
About 1,800 of the district's 2,200 employees from the 27 schools were present.
Will Durham waved "hello" to co-workers and friends as he walked into the church. This will be Durham's fourth year as a teacher at VISD. Durham, special education teacher at Vickers Elementary, said the convocation is a good way of getting everyone in the same room.
"It helps us feel like this is the start of school after being out for two months. It also lets us know about the new things happening in the district," Durham said. "I'm the behavior teacher at Vickers and they're completely re-doing that program."
The Victoria East High School band played the opening song for the ceremony as teachers and staff found their way to their seats.
Edward Asdahl, millshop supervisor, sat on the floor level of the church auditorium with a good view of the stage. Asdahl explained as the millshop supervisor, he's in charge of building cabinets, furniture and whatever else the district needs.
"We all do our own little part for the district," Asdahl said. "Without even one of us, it wouldn't work."
Asdahl said the convocation was a good way to make staff outside of the classroom feel included and recognized.
Diane Billo, principal at Dudley Magnet Elementary School, sat around a group of giddy and excited teachers.
"This event helps us start the school year with enthusiasm and synergy," Billo said. "This is also a great way of meeting our new superintendent, who is so full of energy and has become a wonderful model for teachers."
This was another first for the newly appointed superintendent, Robert Jaklich.
"Every day is an opportunity to make a difference," Jaklich said. "How we start the day is really important."
Jaklich, who came to Victoria from Harlandale ISD, roamed across the stage with his arms flapping while delivering his welcoming speech.
"I want everybody to say, 'Mr. J, how are you today?,'" Jaklich said. "The only way I could be better is if I had a twin."
After the superintendent fired up the crowd, guest speaker and nationally known education writer Eric Jensen took the stage.
Jensen focused on the science behind his teaching strategies.
While projecting brain scan images, Jensen touched on research that has proven it is possible to improve your intelligence quotient over time.
"If our brains can change, then it must be that teaching can make an enormous difference," Jensen said. "You cannot look at children with parents that are poor and blame an IQ."
The focus later shifted to the economic importance behind getting students to class and ways teachers can work to prevent the drop-out rate from rising.
Tedrick Valentine, assistant principal at the Mitchell Guidance Center, sat next to his staff members listening to the speech.
"If we could get those kids back in school they can become active members of our community," Valentine said. "A lot of them don't know the value of education and then others are just bored in the classroom."
The ceremony came to a close with announcement of three grants awarded to departments and staff at Cade Middle School, Chandler and Shields elementary schools.
The West High School Band played its fight and school songs on the stage and perked up the crowed with Journey's hit song "Don't Stop Believing."
"The ultimate goal of this is to bring us all together and know we're all a part of one team in one direction for the best interest of our students," said Nancy McCord, assistant superintendent for secondary schools. "Last year was a big year of change because of the STAAR testing and the core. That's our work ahead of us."