Elkin City Schools held a convocation ceremony in Dixon Auditorium on Monday that marked the opening of the 2014-15 school year and what Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe called a continued “journey of significance” for staff, school and community.
Chairman of the Board of Education Norman Foley delivered opening comments and ECS Board of Education member Stewart Roten also spoke.
Both Foley and Roten are retiring from the ECS Board of Education this year. Foley served eight years and Roten, 12.
In opening comments, Norman thanked the ECS staff, students, school board and the Surry County commissioners, emphasized educational importance and wished all to have a “great year.”
Roten delivered a speech referencing how his earliest teachers and educators had influenced his love of education and reading. He referenced the novel “Trinity” by Leon Uris as once being recommended to him and emphasized the importance of cultural influence and relevance found through education.
Roten said, “We learn through reading that we can visit other places and cultures.” That process makes our world grow bigger, said Roten.
He said he hoped the Elkin school system will always be in the top and said he believed it would. He said it would be through maintaining the action of individually inspiring students, “as you always do.” In addition, Roten told colleagues, teachers and educators he is grateful for what they did for his children.
“Thank you for being who you are and following the calling,” said Roten. He concluded by stating that “God Almighty” has put that calling into educators’ lives.
Bledsoe said while discussing “Our Journey to Significance,” that it was 36 years ago that he first walked into Ferndale Junior High School as an educator. The superintendent said he understood that reason is because children want to be inspired and learn. He told educators that children depend on them and “every day is another opportunity to inspire and educate youth.”
Bledsoe said the four C’s of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) model include critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. That model helps give students the opportunity to prepare for academic careers and future jobs, he said.
“Public schools are under attack; it is important the community still has confidence,” said Bledsoe. Focusing on each child who walks through the doors brings confidence, he said.
“We must have trust that we are all together doing the things that need to be done,” said Bledsoe.
Guest speaker, Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris, thanked school board members publicly for their contributions to the Surry County public school system. He gave a brief speech on the importance of educational collaboration and noted a financial increase given to the Surry County school system.
President of Surry Community College Dr. David Shockley was the “special guest speaker.”
In his speech, the SCC president reminded that understanding trends in today’s communication and conversation remains important.
Shockley said, “All men and women want to be remembered.” He told educators that they are “eternal” because they make an impact on others’ lives daily. “All three school systems are truly excellent in this community. ”
Shockley, also a former United States Marine, said for democracy to survive, the citizenry must remain educated. He said with the influx of information found in the technological environment of the internet, children must be taught to discern and make decisions among large amounts of information with some true, and some false.
“We must teach them how to discern the information that is available to them,” said the college president to educators.
Shockley said the tenant of discerning truth was at the heart of the founding forefathers when establishing a democracy.
He said he was happy that ECS has been the first Surry County system to incorporate the STEAM approach to learning. He reminded of the big challenge in education ahead in today’s world.
Shockley called education a challenge for those who are not faint of heart. He reminded each in their field of the ability they have to affect a great number of lives.
He said the pathway of “eternal” impact in education starts with the individual, translates to the family and extends into generational change.
There is change “because of the work that you do,” said Shockley as he encouraged educators despite the tough conditions some may find during the challenges of the age. Shockley told them they could lament over financial strains in the school system or choose to be creative. Through it all, he emphasized educators embrace cultural differences.
He said it is not necessarily science, technology or the math skills, but “our ingenuity and creativity that separates us as a country.”
“We must be experimental, take given talents and build upon them,” said Shockley.
Guest speaker Mike Fenley, field assistant for United States Sen. Richard Burr, also spoke. He told the ECS audience, “You have a very important role in developing the future of our nation.”
Fenley said it is important to have strong participants in “our society.” He reminded educators their job is found in continuing to challenge and give students tools needed to deliver as society participants. Fenley sent greetings from Burr.
Teacher of the Year Mary Shepherd and Principal of the Year Pam Colbert spoke on the importance of STEAM education and meeting educational challenges.
Delivering closing comments, ECS Board Vice Chairman Dr. Richard Brinegar said he wanted to remind everyone that they are “significant” and an “exceptional individual.” He thanked the ECS school system and staff, as a small business owner, school board member and as a parent.
Several community leaders including Mayor Lestine Hutchens, President of the Elkin Enrichment Foundation Barry Blackburn, and Gary York, owner of WIFM Radio, were recognized. Blackburn was unable to attend the convocation but sent public greetings to attendees at the convocation.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.