Shenandoah County Public Schools’ Opening Day Convocation was extraordinary. On August 26, all SCPS employees converged on the central campus for an event that many declared was the “BEST convocation ever.” The convocation included the expected, important recognitions, but there were also unexpected performances that created a celebratory, motivational kick-off to the new school year. .
Tracy Landes, Executive Secretary to the Superintendent, served as coordinator of this year’s Opening Day Convocation. In fact, Ms. Landes was much more than a coordinator. Ideas for the 2016 Convocation, born during the cold of January and developing as the months grew warm, were mostly hers. Ms. Landes helped to ensure that the focus of the convocation was on the students and on the idea of unity. “To make it happen took a village,” she said.
Karen Whetzel, Chairman of the Shenandoah County School Board, welcomed everyone and was both “proud and happy” to announce that Dr. Mark Johnston is the school division’s new superintendent effective September 1, 2016. She talked briefly about the School Board’s goals and the belief that great
Karen Whetzel, Chairman
Shenandoah County School Board
communities come from great schools. “And we have great schools,” Ms. Whetzel affirmed. “There is no greater calling,” she continued, “than to dedicate yourself to the education of our children. You are the reason so many dreams come true.”
Abruptly, almost interrupting Ms. Whetzel’s speech, the gym went black and fireworks blazed from the projection screens. A spotlight shone on a single guitar player. The booming of his bass guitar, amplified to the max, broke the dark silence. Band members, cheerleaders, and drum lines from all three high schools rushed into the darkened gym playing JMU Chant, a Marching Royal Dukes’ tune especially arranged for SCPS by Matt Mrosko. The bands also performed Please Work, an original composition by Central graduate Luke McGirr. The cheerleaders’ neon hair ribbons provided additional light as the band members played and maneuvered in the dim light.
The collaborative choreography of band directors Sarah Mrosko, (CHS band director and Convo 16 music coordinator), Megan Hendrix (SJHS band director), and Chris Szuba (SHS band director) helped, from a practical view, to keep band members, mascots, flags bearers, and cheerleaders from bumping into each other. From an artistic view, their leadership resulted in a unified and stellar performance from students county-wide.
When the lights came up, the county-wide band played on and cheerleaders on both sides of the gym performed shoulder stand after shoulder stand with the top cheerleader dropping into the arms of teammates. And there with the band was Dr. Mark Johnston, the Superintendent himself, proudly playing his trumpet.
Meet General Stonewall Jackson, Central Falcon, and Strasburg Ram
|| Ebbie Linaburg, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for Shenandoah County Public Schools, welcomed everyone to the 2016 Convocation and to the new school year. She introduced the Color Guard and Hayley Couch, who sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Massanutten Military Academy’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp (JROTC) Color Guard presented the Colors. Commanded by Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Jessica Hirsch from MMA. the Color Guard included members from Central High School’s Magnet ROTC Program: Cadet Matthew Johnson, Cadet Ashley Johnson, and Cadet Trevor Grey. CSM Suzanne Rubenstein is the JROTC instructor at MMA.
Hayley Couch, a rising senior at Stonewall Jackson High School, sang the National Anthem. ”Her voice brought strength and passion to the Star Spangled Banner,” commented Heidi King, Choir teacher at North Fork Middle School and Stonewall Jackson High School.
Linda Hodges, Supervisor of Human Resources, presented the 2015-2016 Employee of the Year, Team of the Year, and Teacher of the Year nominees. Amid applause, winners were called to the center of the gym where Dr. Johnston congratulated each individual. Charlotte Polk, Secretary from Peter Muhlenberg, was recognized as the Employee of the Year. The Strasburg High School Music Department, Kylene Robinson, Joel Ross, and Chris Szuba, was recognized as the Team of the Year. Meredith Bauserman, who teaches chemistry and ecology at Central High School, was recognized as the Teacher of the Year.
|| Charlotte Polk
Employee of the Year
Strasburg High School
Team of the Year
Joel Ross, Chris Szuba,
Dr, Johnston congratulates Employee of the Year, Team of the Year, and Teachers of the Year
Shenandoah County Public Schools
Teachers of the Year 2015-16
Ashby Lee Elementary School, Alice Bauserman
North Fork Middle School, Kathi Kahl
Stonewall Jackson High School, Joseph Spory
W.W. Robinson Elementary School. Lynn McKee
Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, Kristine Hoover
Central High School, Meredith Bauserman
Sandy Hook Elementary School, Melissa Himelright
Signal Knob Middle School, Jennifer Sell
Strasburg High School, Tammy Cooper
Triplett Tech/Massanutten Regional Governor's School, Michelle Harbison-Hepner
Shenandoah County Public Schools
Teacher of the Year
Ms. Bauserman explained that she had prepared a speech about keeping curiosity alive, but her heart kept pulling her in a different direction. The night before the convocation, she decided to “follow my heart.”
Ms. Bauserman first thanked her family for supporting her in all her endeavors and for “teaching me to never settle and to always work hard for better.” She then thanked all of the teachers and colleagues--many of whom are her former teachers--who have inspired and challenged her, and in so doing have made her a better teacher. Her students, or “kids” as she calls them, challenge her as well, and in meeting that challenge “to better serve them,” she becomes a better teacher.
Shenandoah County Public School’s Teacher of the Year confessed that she had no intention of becoming a teacher. “My high school chemistry teacher, the late, and great, Coach Steve Good” changed that. “He saw something in me that I didn’t,” she said. He saw the teacher in her. Ms. Bauserman becoming a teacher was the result of a chance meeting with Steve Good when she was almost finished with college and not an education major.
Mr. Good took the time to know his students and build relationships with them, explained Ms. Bauserman. He was able to to see “that something” in his students and tried hard to help them see it too. “Isn’t that truly our job in this field of education--to find ‘that something’ in our kids they don’t see yet,” asked Ms. Bauserman, “and to foster it and provide opportunities so that one day they will see it? What an awesome responsibility we have!”
Cyndy Walsh, member of the Shenandoah County School Board and Executive Director of the Shenandoah Education Foundation, congratulated Ms. Bauserman and presented her with a check for $2500. Ms. Walsh thanked all of the teachers for their dedication. “There is no doubt,” she said, “that every single one of you cares about our kids.”
Cyndy Walsh presents check to Meredith Bauserman from the Shenandoah County Education Foundation.
Prior to his speech, Dr. Johnston thanked everyone for the warm welcome that he has received and noted that he is “humbled and honored” to be Shenandoah County Public School’s new superintendent.
Three messages for employees were included in Dr. Johnston’s presentation. First, he asked employees to take pride in their work. “What a difference you make,” he said. “What you do each and every day does matter.” He emphasized that we must “care for and educate students so that they grow up knowing how to treat one another with respect” and how to value freedom.
Second, he noted that education is changing faster than it ever has and that employees must “adapt to and manage change.” Students and employees need to “embrace change” and use “creativity and problem solving skills” to ensure their own current and future success.
Dr. Mark Johnston, Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools, address employees at the
Opeing Day Convocation.
His third request was simple. “ Please. . . please have fun! Enjoy your students and your colleagues,” he said.
“We are family,” Dr. Johnston concluded. “We are one. We are Shenandoah County Public Schools.”
The gym doors burst open and a group of students carrying student desks hurried onto the floor. They lined up on both sides of the gym and appearing quite bored, they sat at their desks and seemed not to be listening to a student who was talking about the fact that most teachers think students do not listen when they talk. At the end of the speaker’s comments, the students stood on the seat of their desks and shouted in unison to the crowd: WE HEAR YOU!
Over and over, this classroom of students huddled together to consider various teacher-student scenarios. After a few moments of consideration of a topic, the group disbanded and the microphone was passed from student to student allowing everyone to talk about teachers and the influence they have on students. Their responses were different and ranged from humorous to serious, but their message was loud and clear: Teachers do make a difference. Students do listen to their teachers. The classroom disbanded as the students exited the gym taking their desks with them.
Suddenly, band members, mascots, cheerleaders, and all of the other students who had participated in the Convocation, ran back onto the gym floor. There was music and dancing and confetti!! Employees rushed from the bleachers to join the celebration. Central’s gym rocked with laughter and conversation and anticipation for the new school year as the “BEST convocation ever” ended.
“We are family,” Dr. Johnston concluded.
“We are one. We are Shenandoah County Public Schools.”