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Bertie County Schools’ Convocation ‘sets the stage’

By Amanda Bunch
Bertie County Schools

WINDSOR—On Aug. 22, all Bertie County Schools’ staff members were welcomed to the start of the 2018-2019 school year with the annual Convocation, or opening of schools, celebration.

This year the focus of every employee is to be “Every Child. Every Day.” and to “Make Every Minute Count.”

Dyreek Carter, a student at Bertie Early College High School, was the Master of Ceremonies, and members of the Bertie Middle School Junior Beta Club served as ushers.

Pastor Samuel K. Shaw III of Mt. Olive Baptist Church gave an inspiring invocation, followed by the posting of the Colors by the Bertie High School JROTC.

Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Edmonds (at podium) addresses BCS teachers and staff at the beginning of Convocation 2018, opening the 2018-19 school year. | Photos courtesy of Bertie Co. Schools

Makayla Patty, a student at Aulander Elementary School, led the “Pledge of Allegiance,” which was immediately followed by the reorganized Bertie County Community Choir’s rendition of “You Raise Me Up.”

School Board Chair Bobby Occena welcomed the new and returning staff, as well as local elected officials and other dignitaries and special guests. He encouraged the educators to not blame the students when the going gets tough; instead, they should work hard to find strategies to figure out how to support the student and make strides toward betterment.

“Don’t give up on our students,” he said. “Seek help and support from your principals and colleagues,” he said also. “You are not alone, and seeking help is not a weakness.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Edmonds and Vice Chair of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners Ron Wesson offered greetings to the crowd.

Wesson spoke on behalf of the commissioners, and emphasized to the faculty and staff of Bertie County Schools that “[They] believe in public education” He said that he is often asked, “Mr. Wesson, what is wrong with our public schools?”

He replied, “My response is: There is nothing wrong; we just need more involvement; we need more great teachers; we need more kids who come to school with a burning desire to get a quality education … and we need more financial support—from federal, state and local.”

That is why the commissioners are doing more and giving more to support the public school system—with the new library and cooperative extension, new housing for new teachers, and a new opportunity to add extra support for public schools.

Wesson went on to explain that a quarter-of-a-cent sales tax increase is being proposed in Bertie County to be used to offer teacher supplements. It will be an item on the November 2018 ballot, and he encouraged the public to support the item.

“There are 100 counties in North Carolina,” he said. “And of those 100 counties, 96 offer teacher supplements. Bertie County is currently not one of them.”

Karen Dameron, Interim Executive Director of Operations and Human Resources, welcomed special guests and recognized each department and school with the help of their principals and assistant principals. Then it was the ‘roll call’, where Dameron encouraged every person there to have the same enthusiasm, energy and excitement on day 179 as on day one.

“If you go to school excited and with energy, it is contagious,” she said.

When it was time for the guest speaker, the faculty and staff were reminded of two years ago when the same individual delivered the keynote address – Dr. Kenston Griffin, Jr. of Dream Builders, Inc.

He reminded the crowd, “If better is possible, then good enough is no longer an option.”

His address to the staff took on a more serious tone on this occasion in 2018. His message was centered upon “pressing the reset button” and upon “setting the stage.”

“And the stage starts when they get on the bus,” said Griffin.

“For some of you, setting the stage will mean coming to work on time,” he said. “And for some of you, it will be coming to work like you want to be here.”

“You have to give them more (of yourself and your knowledge), even though they don’t want it,” he added.

He continued to make several key points:

  1. “Inspect what you expect. Treat people better than you are treated. Are you a “teacher,” or are you an “educator?”
  2. “Stop talking to people you think are your friends because, actually, they are your associates. Customer service is everything.”
  3. “Ask yourself how consistent you are in your practices. – They want you to tell them what to do, but more so, they want you to connect with them to do it. Teach me, show me, but you’ve got to do it too.”
  4. “Dress the part. Tips: Some students are going to say, ‘Well, I remember when you were not nice; when you were not professional; when you were not focused.’ And to them you just say, ‘It is a new day, and that was the old me, and we are moving forward.’ – Make eye contact with students—young people know when you are afraid of them. – You know your character building students.”

Griffin also said, “Remember: Yesterday ended last night; your turning point starts now.”

“And support her (Dr. Edmonds),” he said, pointing to the superintendent.

Dr. Edmonds then shared her vision and goals. She began with sharing that the staff of Bertie County Schools will soon have full access to a fitness facility, housed on the campus of the Central Services Complex.

She shared her own personal story of how she failed algebra in the eighth grade because her teacher never offered her assistance or asked her what was going on. In fact, she simply needed glasses. And she had two educators, a teacher and a principal, who believed in her and told her she was smart in math, to double up in the tenth grade. From there, she went on to major in math at the college level and became a math teacher. That little girl—who came from a poor family, with parents who had a limited education, and with no older siblings who had gone to college—was the superintendent who now stood before the audience.

Dr. Edmonds does not want the teachers in BCS to be like that eighth grade algebra teacher; she wants every teacher to build a relationship with every student.

Dr. Kenston Griffin, Jr. of Dream Builders, Inc. was featured speaker at the BCS Convocation.

“You matter,” she said. “What you do matters. And every student deserves a teacher in every classroom who will give them a positive experience in every school … Every Child. Every Day. Make Every Minute Count!”

And that is the motto for Bertie County Schools this year.

She cautioned the staff on how they handle their frustrations. “Our words matter,” she said. “What we speak to students will sometimes determine the direction in which they choose to go.”

Dr. Edmonds’ words of encouragement and expectations were punctuated by videos and a power point presentation. One video showed the stark differences between a student’s day with school staff that didn’t have a relationship with him, and the same student’s day when the same school staff took an interest in him and acknowledged him, appreciated him, encouraged him—had a relationship with him.

She went on to talk about a fixed vs. growth mindset and about how many times we say the right words, but actually do not know what those “right words” look like on a daily basis.

The ceremony ended with a powerful student rendition by Keyonie Rankins of Bertie Early College High School of the song “Rise Up,” during which she was accompanied by staff keyboard player Jonathan White of Aulander Elementary.