Greenfield Exempted Village School District staff, teachers and administrators joined together with enthusiasm and Tiger pride in the high school gym Monday for the annual opening day session to kick off the new school year.
“I like to think of us beginning a journey together,” Superintendent Quincey Gray said. “Really, every school year is like that, but this year has some special circumstances we haven’t experienced before.”
As has become the norm in a lot of gatherings, each person that entered the gym was wearing a mask, and each person’s temperature was taken before they filed into the gym and spread out on both sides.
Gray spoke about the district’s reopening plan, which highlights teamwork. And with the ever-changing guidelines related to COVID-19, she said, “Every day brings something new. Be ready for that.”
The superintendent spoke about the importance of wearing masks, and encouraged everyone to be patient, compassionate and reflective about the things that are working and not working as they begin a new school year in these challenging times. She encouraged everyone to highlight the positives, to exhibit “above-minded behavior” making every interaction a positive one, to lead with kindness, and to support and encourage one another.
“We can do it,” she said. “This is doable.”
She spoke about how everyone may have differing viewpoints about what the world is going through, but said everyone should be respectful of another’s views. Political viewpoints, she said, have no place in the district.
“We are here to educate children and work together,” Gray said. “We put the kids first. It’s what we do. It’s all one day at a time, and we’ll get through it as long as we work together.”
The McClain Marching Band started things off with the fight song, alma mater, and national anthem, while the Cadet Corp presented the colors during the national anthem.
Buckskin Principal Mike Shumate introduced all the teachers new to the district. They are: Nathan McNeal, elementary physical education; Mark Bihl, high school intervention; Bethany Martin, fifth grade Buckskin Elementary; Amanda Collier, seventh grade math; Colleen Kline, high school home economics; Mikel Pritchard, seventh grade science; Brandy Luke, EMIS coordinator; and Brett Wilson, Greenfield Elementary music.
Three National Honor Society students spoke a little about their organization, then helped in the recognition of those who have reached years of service milestones.
Those recognized were: 10 years — Lynn Brown, Tiffany Maag, Angela Ross, Tammy Wrightsel, Vicki Mikkelsen, Marci Reeves, Carianne Webb, Jesse Mitchell and Alisa Barrett; 15 years — Sandy Reyer, Megan Cheesebrew, Julie Shonkwiler, Mackenzie Henson and April Putnam; 20 years — Cheryl Cowgill, Tina Charles, Pat Watkins, Karen Mullikin, Keith Penwell, Steve Roble, Joe Whitley and Gemma Smith; 25 years — Shawna Ross, Cindy McNeal, Angie Clouser and Chris Dodds; 30 years — Robin Garman; 35 years — Sue Ann Baird; and 40 years — Lori Bukowski, Tim Gossett and Cathy Rivas.
Those who have retired this year were also recognized for their years of service. They were Karen Shonkwiler, Sally Dettwiller, Mindy Anderson, Jill Lee and Helen Roe.
Tati Weaks, teacher and president of the Greenfield Exempted Village Education Association, spoke to the crowd about the different ways everyone may be feeling under the current circumstances.
She shared her own anxieties with having band camp recently. With all the new things everyone has to do and all the precautions that have to be observed, the first couple of days were awkward, Weaks said, but then they fell into a routine and the awkwardness was replaced with the joy of seeing each other and doing something they all love.
The kids, she said, “don’t need to hear your opinion on COVID-19, they just need to know you are happy to see them. We can do this, it’s just going to take us working together.”
Director of Instruction Alisa Barrett thanked Gray, beginning her second year as superintendent, for how she has handled everything. “I cannot imagine being a brand new superintendent in a pandemic,” Barrett said.
Barrett then played a short video featuring the late Rita Pierson, a longtime educator, speaking about being a champion of students, about the value and importance of human connection and building relationships, something Barrett said was important always, but especially now.
“Make it a goal to be a champion of your students and each other,” Barrett said.
Gray thanked the district task force for its work in creating a reopening plan, the staff, school board members, and everyone present for all they do.
“We will get through this together,” she said.
The first day for students is Aug. 24.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.