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2017-18 Staff Opening Day Comments – Superintendent Jody Monroe

Filed in Archive by on September 5, 2017

The following is the full text of remarks from Superintendent Jody Monroe to BCSD faculty and staff on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

Welcome back to the 2017-18 school year. I hope you all had a fantastic summer and were able to relax and get ready for another year.  

I would like to kick off this morning with some introductions:

First, members of our Board of Education are here with us today. Please join me in giving them a round of applause for all that they do on behalf of our district. All of them, volunteers.  

I would like to ask BOE President, Christine Beck to come up and introduce her fellow BOE members and offer a few remarks to kick off the school year.

Allow me to also introduce our district administrative team: Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Programs Dave Hurst, Chief Business and Financial Officer Judi Kehoe, Director of Special Education and Student Services Kathy Johnston and new this year, Director of Technology Ray Nardelli.

I’d like to take a few minutes now to introduce some of our new staff members.

We have our new instructional staff, who were here last week for orientation, but for now, I would like to give them a warm welcome from our entire staff. View new instructional staff presentation.

In addition, we have some new additions to our administrative team. They are: Nicole Conway, HS Hall Principal; Jim Smith, stepping away from the classroom to be another of our HS Hall Principals; Jackie Munroe, who worked as a HS Hall Principal last year and this year will serve as MS Hall Principal; and Ray Nardelli, our Director of Technology. View new administrator staff presentation.

We also have several new support staff. I’m not sure if everyone is here, but please make an effort to reach out to ALL of our new staff members and make them feel at home here. View new support staff presentation.

We often have many late additions to our support staff, so if I’ve missed someone, please stand and be recognized.

Each year, we choose opening day to recognize those staff members who will celebrate milestones in their career. We will start with our colleagues who are beginning their 25th year of service with the district and follow with those who begin their 30th year. If members of our BOE could come up to assist with the certificates. 

This group of individuals are beginning their 25th year in the Bethlehem Central School District. They are:

  • Donna Bailey
  • Kathryn Campion
  • Mary Davis
  • Edward Gill
  • Kim Irwin
  • Loretta Jerome
  • Jeff Klamka
  • Linda Kowalewski
  • Eric Orner
  • Todd Tyler
  • William Wojcik
  • Richard Wright

These folks are beginning their 30th year with the district. They are:

  • Michele Atallah
  • Heidi Aupperle
  • Ann Brands
  • Kathleen Buckley
  • Gary Carl
  • Catherine Fredette
  • Kimberly Ganley
  • Robert Helm
  • Kathleen Normile
  • Dean Pemberton
  • Lisa Relyea

The summer provides me with some time to reflect on the past year and spend some time thinking about the year ahead and what we hope to accomplish.

In early July, I sent an email to principals and supervisors asking them for a sentence or two describing what their ideal work and school environment looked like. This is a compilation of what I received back.

The words that came through loud and clear were these: Supportive, Collaborative, Goals, Communication, Positive, Community, Comfortable, Respected and Valued.

I am sure that none of these words surprise you.  I bet if I asked all of you this same question, I would get the same results. And, if any of you asked your students this same question , you would get very similar results.  

Last year, one of my goals was to create a positive school environment for students, staff, families and the community. My intent is to expand this effort, with the help of our Coordinated School Health Team, in the new year. It is one of several goals we have outlined for 2017-18.

On our website you will find that the district goals are described in detail, with a timeline for implementation, and you will see that members of our administrative team are tasked with certain responsibilities in making these goals a reality. We have also begun to assemble a Strategic Planning Team, who will work over the next 18 months to examine our mission and vision and make recommendations for a five-year plan that will guide the district in the years to come. These can all be found on the website and I encourage you to at least take a few minutes to watch a five-minute video that highlights all of this year’s goals.

For today, however, I want to focus on how we can work together to create a more positive school environment.

If you are thinking, OK…so where do I fit in exactly? How do I contribute? There is a simple, easy way to remember what you can do…on days when you may struggle to find inspiration (and let’s be real, some days are just more difficult than others.)

So here’s my advice: THINK OF THIS FACE.

This is my nephew, Alex. When my sister shared this photo after his kindergarten graduation, my first thought was, “what a happy kid.”  I think he is pretty cute too.  

And, let’s face it, isn’t this what we want for all of our students?  Isn’t this how we all want to feel….happy, positive and excited about coming to work each day? When students enter our schools ready to learn, full of hope and possibility, we must nurture their enthusiasm with quality opportunities to learn and grow – academically, socially, emotionally and globally.

Now, I am not blind to the many challenges our students face. Some students do not arrive in our buildings and classrooms with a smile on their face each day, for reasons we may not know. View funny YouTube clip from Everybody Loves Raymond.

I’m glad you enjoyed that. What makes this clip so funny is the truth of it all. Even when we think everything is ok at home, our students could be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And the weight of this world seems to get heavier by the day.

It is more important than ever that we foster a school environment where all students feel safe and cared for. Where we, together, help our students discover what’s good in this world and in themselves. Where we look for little things that can make every day lighter, and brighter, not just for our students but for each other and for ourselves.

When we are young, it can be especially difficult to see that what makes us unique or different is often what makes us special. Even as adults, it is hard to see.

In a TED talk from April, Lord Jonathan Sacks predicted, and perhaps rightfully so, that the time in which we live — this time period in history — will someday be labeled by anthropologists simply as “The Selfie.”

They will see, he surmises, a time when human beings worshiped the self, the me and the I. But he also sees a way we can navigate through what feel like troubling times and I want to share his insight with you.

View April 2017 TED Talk from Lord Jonathan Sacks.

It’s heavy stuff, I know. But here is what I see as the takeaway for everyone in this room:

To each child who comes through our doors, who boards our buses, who lines up for lunch, you are a monument. A living monument, with a story to tell.

I want you to tell those stories and invite your students to tell theirs. These stories are often told in the small moments of every day but they are cumulative and they make a difference. This is what creates the kind of environment we all long for. And just looking around I see so many stories I already know. People whose stories resonate beyond the classroom, who are remembered by students not only for what they do — in and around our schools — but for who they are.

There is Bill Reilly – A middle school social studies teacher — who every year for as long as I have known him — has donated his time to helping children in underdeveloped nations and teaches his students what a global perspective really is. His is a story of humanity

At the high school, A.G. Irons – A history teacher and coach who delivered Bethlehem its first championship boys basketball season in 40-plus years. In his spare time, he devoted much of last year — including a great deal of personal time — to getting the district’s Weekend Backpack program up and running. In doing so, he would often spend his Thursday evenings shopping for groceries so that more than 50 Bethlehem students would have food to bring home for the weekend. His is a story of giving.

Also at the high school, Dr. Lisa Carr – A respected high school counselor, Dr. Carr recently encouraged a group of students she worked with to meet with District administrators to discuss issues of race in our schools. With her guidance, these students were able to share their experiences to help us see that we must ensure cultural and racial sensitivity is better understood by faculty and staff. Hers is a story of equality.

Two of our bus drivers, Amy Hunter and Danika Raup – Every December, Amy and Danika donate their own time and resources to create holiday centerpieces to be auctioned off to their colleagues in support of the Holiday Caring and Sharing Drive. Amy has shared her story of having a difficult childhood and this is her way of helping students who may be in a similar situation. Theirs are stories of compassion.

Wherever you go in Bethlehem, you find these people bringing the best of themselves to our district.

Last year, one of our former colleagues, Mike DeAngelis, wrote us all song entitled “I Am An Eagle,” which we will listen to in a moment as we conclude our time together this morning. A musician and a teacher, he told his own story and in doing so, left us with an incredible gift.

Mike’s message, which continues to resonate, and which I hope you take with you as you begin the new year is this: I am an Eagle, yes, but together….we are BC.

I thank you all for being here today and I wish each and every one of you a very happy return to the 2017-18 school year!