Electric Staff Opening Day Sets Tone for Year

Electric Staff Opening Day Sets Tone for New School Year
Posted on 08/21/2019
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collage of staff opening dayElectric. Rocking. Inspiring. These were just some of the words Lakota staff used to describe the district’s opening day program, where more than 1,700 administrators, teachers and support staff packed into Lakota East’s gymnasium on Aug. 13 to celebrate the start of a new school year.

“We really do believe that we are all in this together,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “It’s not just the theme or some new hashtag. We want to continue to push collaboration among ourselves and our buildings, but also beyond the walls of our district.”

Those words set the tone for one part of Lakota’s new vision statement and this year’s theme - WE are In This Together. The theme was pulled through everything from new staff t-shirts and banners, all signed by a mix of Lakota staff, to a program packed with student and staff speakers and finally, the premiere of Lakota’s newest video release: School Bus Karaoke: WE are All In This Together. The sing-along video involves Lakota staff, board members, students, parents and community partners in a comedic interpretation of High School Musical's "We're All in This Together."

“I look forward to convocation every year. Nobody does a welcome back like Lakota!” said Shawnee ECS kindergarten teacher Rebecca Striet. ”The electricity and excitement in the gym is contagious. I love hearing from staff, students, teachers, parents, etc about all the amazing things that are going on within Lakota schools and getting inspired for the upcoming year.

Following a meet-and-greet that had staff experimenting with green screen technology and an energetic opening to the program by East’s Marching Thunderhawks and vocal performance group, Miller introduced a line-up of student and staff speakers, each one representing a different pillar of Lakota’s vision statement: 

WE are Personalized - In light of the district-wide challenge to put textbooks aside on the first two days of school to focus on building relationships, Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis and Lakota West Principal Elgin Card delivered inspiring perspectives on their own styles of establishing a foundation of trust and openness with students.

WE are Future Ready - Plains Junior School eighth-grader Taylor Blackburn and Lakota West Freshman student Mason Ruggiero replayed their experience last year with the Fluid Power Challenge, a unique, real-world learning opportunity made possible through a partnership with a local hydropower company.

WE are Fiscally Responsible - Jen Neubarth represented Lakota’s entire team of innovation specialists, who are at the ready to help teachers across the district take their innovation to new heights by taking advantage of the new digital learning resources Lakota has invested in.

WE are In This Together - Katie Bauer, Lakota’s coordinator of strategic business partnerships, shared classroom success stories made possible by community outreach, including Lakota East senior Sydney Szuch, who recounted her summer experience interning at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Liberty Campus. 

The speakers’ words struck a chord with both new and more veteran Lakota staff. 

“After teaching in the district for 18 years, it’s always an incredible way to reconnect with colleagues, wish each other well for the new year, and leave feeling inspired,” said Hopewell ECS first grade teacher Asha Ruiz, noting that it never fails to remind her of her “why.” 

“The energy and passion expressed by those in attendance was palpable,” said Plains Junior School’s new assistant principal, Justin Frost, who attended for the first time. “The program was inspiring, student-focused and clear in mission for all of us for the coming weeks and months.”

Long-time Lakota teacher Caitlin Huxel faces a new position in the coming year. “I felt so energized as I listened to students, staff members, and district leaders share their excitement for the year ahead,” she said, noting her excitement to be in a role that helps students and teachers take advantage of all the growing resources and opportunities around Lakota.

While the packed scene might suggest otherwise, Striet described the morning as “intimate,” noting the pride she feels to sit among so many “positive, forward-thinking educators.” Kathie Guckenberger, an instructional aide at Lakota East High School, echoes her comments. 

“Having the chance to see coworkers you may have worked with at other buildings gives me a sense of family to start the year off,” Guckenberger said. Click here to view a complete photo gallery from Lakota's 2019 Opening Day program.