Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland gave words of advice and encouragement to the teachers. Rowland and Steve Hartline of 104.1 were a part of the car giveaway by Don Ledford to one lucky city schools staffer. Ledford gave a one-year lease to Hielene Tubbs. Tubbs, a teacher from the Teen Learning Center, drew the winning key from a hat.
“We wanted to kick the year off with a very teacher-supportive meeting,” said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of city schools. “We wanted something fun that was student focused. Every decision we make is student focused and every teacher is student focused.”
The power teachers have in the lives of their students was reiterated throughout the meeting. Teachers were reminded they are a part of each student’s success story. Debbie Torres, director of staff, hosted the meeting with energy that seemed contagious. Michael Kahrs, supervisor of data management and testing, presented a TCAP good news report for each school. A voice came over the speakers following Kahrs’ report.
“Cleveland City Schools have been aptly preparing high school graduates for life journeys since 1967. The 2012 graduating class marks 45 years of educating young men and women to become members of this community and points far beyond Cleveland, Tenn. ... Many vocations and professions are represented by the graduates. ... Today, Cleveland City Schools is proud to present a representative from the graduating class of 1967 to 2012.”
The graduation march began playing and past graduates dressed in blue robes walked down the aisle. Each graduate held a banner with their graduation year emblazoned on the front. One by one, they approached the stage, said their names into the microphone and accepted a card from Ringstaff. Following recent grads were future ones in robes of white. The final graduation, 2030, was represented by a baby being held in his mother’s arms.
Jennifer Burke, on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland staff, spoke on family and the effect teachers have on the lives of their students. Burke shared her adopted children’s story before bringing in a choir of kids from the organization. Elementary to high school students sang a song based on the theme of “Every Child, Every Day.”
“Every child can make it ... Thanks for all you’ve taught me and all the prayers you have prayed. Thank you for always believing in every child, every day,” sang the children. “Hey, don’t give up, don’t give up on me.”
Selections from E.L. Ross’ “Cinderella” production and Cleveland Middle School’s “Beauty and the Beast” production were presented during the meeting. New personnel were recognized and Ringstaff offered encouragement to the teachers.
“Research is very clear about this: the single most important factor to a student’s academic success is having highly effective teachers in the classroom. We have spent plenty of time making sure all of our teachers are very effective with everything we put you through,” Ringstaff said. “... You are here because you are chosen to be here. You are a teacher in the best school system in the state of Tennessee— probably anywhere.”
Ringstaff said it is vital for teachers to increase parent involvement in their students’ lives. He challenged teachers to reach out to the parents.
“If we can get parents on our side, then we can get students on our side,” Ringstaff said.
Torres took the stage once more to recognize faculty and staff who had made it 10, 20, 25, 30, and 35 years in the system. The meeting ended with a candlelight ceremony between Ringstaff and the district’s principals. Teachers sat in their seats and waved around pocket watches when the lights shut off. Lisa Spain, school consultant and author of “Committent to Graduate” ended the meeting with one final encouraging word.
“You guys today have seen an amazing impact of what you ... do as educators,” Spain said. “It’s the ‘who’ that comes first and you guys are doing that. ... Thanks so much for what you guys do.”
The first day of school for Cleveland schools is today.