Annual convocation boosts excitement for nearing school year

District staff members attended the annual convocation on Wednesday, Aug. 10

Tricia Drumm and Joe McClain

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Teachers and employees districtwide gathered at Mill Valley on Wednesday, Aug. 10 for the annual convocation that begins each school year. Chatter filled the gymnasium as the winners of door prizes were announced, and the district members laughed at the staff-made video before the convocation. The passion the staff had towards the new year was overwhelming. 

Chosen by the assistant superintendent Alvie Cater, the convocation’s theme was “Back to the Future.” Cater has been the emcee and host of the convocation for the past 13 years, although the convocation has occurred well before Cater was employed.

The inspiration for the theme stemmed from the change in district leadership, according to Cater.

“We had an interim superintendent last year, and so this year we have a permanent superintendent,” Cater said. “And I thought, ‘You know what? Now’s an opportunity that as a school system, as a board of education, as a school, as a staff, we can put our focus back on the future of our students and the future of our school systems.’”

After attending his first De Soto convocation, superintendent Frank Harwood saw that event as an opportunity for district members to socialize with one another.

“In teaching, a lot of times, because we have 12 different buildings spread all over the place, teachers don’t get to interact as much as people in other professions do,” Harwood said.  “Convocations are a great way to kind of come back and get people re-energized, have a good time, let them see their colleagues and the things that are going on.”

Science teacher Donna Riss, who won a prize in the door prizes, has witnessed the convocation transform over the years.

“In past years, there have been people from the community that come and get recognized, and I don’t think they’ve done that for the past couple years,” Riss said. “But there’s always speakers that give inspiring talks and new superintendents [and sponsors from the community that are recognized].”

School board vice president Dick Dearwester spoke at the convocation and, like Harwood, believes the annual convocation is a great way to reconnect the district after summer break.

“It’s kind of like a family reunion. If you do a family reunion, it brings everyone back and gives you a sense of oneness, a sense of unity and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to get everybody together for a family picnic,” Dearwester said.

Harwood finds the convocation an effective way to help recognize the great amount of work and effort the district staff puts into each school year.

“I think too often, right now in the national media, teachers can get vilified and education in general is kind of given a bad [reputation] with different things,” Harwood said. “So, this helps us get together and really celebrate what we’re gonna do, and what we’re gonna get excited about for the upcoming year.”

Compared to convocations of previous years, Cater wanted to make the convocation feel “less business and more fun and inspirational” in an effort to continually motivate teachers for the new school year.

“You could think of in the context of what [students] do here at Mill Valley High School,” Cater said. “Sometimes you have a pep rally to kick off or recognize an upcoming event, so this is our pep rally, if you will, for our staff to start the school year, to get them really focused and excited to welcome back our students. Because our students, they’re the number one reason why we’re here.”

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