The Dade County Board of Education packed Trenton First Baptist to the wings Wednesday morning with its “Institute 2017” school year kickoff, a community event that brought educators together with local civic and business leaders.
Dade County Commission Executive Ted Rumley joined Superintendent of Schools Jan Harris on stage, reminding her that the B of E is Dade County’s biggest employer. Dr. Harris in her turn thanked the county boss for Dade’s tradition of strong government and community support of the schools. She remembered this May’s three-bus accident, when several students were injured though none seriously. When she was at the hospital monitoring the students, said Dr. Harris: “In walked Ted Rumley. He’s always there.”
Shannon Henry of the Bank of Dade said the super was also always there herself for the students and her staffers. He said his bank had volunteered to provide breakfast for the program with the idea that 20 to 40 would be in attendance. Instead, he said, Dr. Harris had RSVPed with thanks and a headcount of 340. “You have a superintendent who will not settle for 20 or 30 of you to be taken care of,” he told the crowd of assembled teachers.
Shannon Henry (center) of Bank of Dade gives away door prizes, flanked by Board of Education member Jennifer Hartline (left) and Dr. Harris.
In addition to breakfast, the Bank of Dade also provided gift certificates and cash as door prizes.
An inspirational song was performed by tween singin' sensation Preslie Tinker (right), slated by Dr. H. to put Dade on the map in the American Idol department.
Guest speaker for the program was 14-year-old Augie Fruechtenicht (below), who was diagnosed as a toddler with autism spectrum disorder, so that his parents were warned he might never speak. “I was years behind and I was only 3,” he said. Now he’s in regular classes, plays clarinet with the band and not only speaks but is getting a local rep as an inspirational speaker. The message: Never give up on a kid.
Dr. Harris, who is rapidly making a reputation of her own as a leading Dade fashionista—watch out, Dora Crisp!—gave her own talk on shoes, which, incidentally, she confessed she loved so much she had slept in them as a child.
The super was, however, discussing footwear as metaphor rather than couture, as in work boots versus silver slippers, the covering of the lower extremities as they slog or skip their way along the slippery slopes and sundry walks of life. ”People have different stories and they have different shoes,” said Dr. Harris. It is important to treat all with respect and attention whatever their stories and whatever their shoes, she concluded.
To illustrate her point, Dr. Harris sported two different shoes herself, one red and one black.
(Whether this becomes a sartorial trend that rips its way through Dade’s valleys and up its hillsides--are you listening, Dora?--only time will tell, but one thing is certain: The Dade Planet can be trusted to report exhaustively on such a development should it indeed come to pass.)
Dr. Harris also went over recent accomplishments at the schools: Last week, the school board approved a complete revamp of systemwide policies, abolishing rules that no longer applied. “We had 31 rules,” said Dr. Harris. “God only gave us 10 commandments.”
She said that last year’s campaign to approve attendance had reduced sick days by 345 and saved the system money despite $200 incentive checks that were awarded 86 employees. Besides, she said: “When we have the bus drivers on the bus instead of a sub, the kids are going to behave better.” The same, said Dr. Harris, goes for teachers in classrooms.
She congratulated Assistant Superintendent Billy Hooker, who supervised them, on this summer’s sweeping improvements to the schools, including a $2.6 million renovation of the high school and a revamp of the gym acoustics at Dade Elementary.
The superintendent and school board pose with staffers recognized for longevity in the system.
Finally, Dr. Harris introduced new staffers, including Dr. Sandra Spivey (right), brand new to the Dade system this year as principal of Dade Middle School.
System principals Josh Ingle (left) and James Fahrney (below) have swapped jobs this year, with Ingle, who was principal of Dade High, now presiding over Davis Elementary, and Fahrney moving from the helm there to take over the high school. Only Tracy Blevins remains in the same job as last year as principal of Dade Elementary.
Students flood back into schools, joyously or otherwise, next Tuesday, Aug. 8.