As part of the Wellness Fair, staff members were encouraged to visit a number of health assessment and informational booths manned by Vidant Duplin personnel. Physicians and other health care providers were on hand to counsel staff members about results and answer questions.
At the conclusion of the Wellness Fair, Laura Maready, Vidant Duplin’s Director of Marketing and Development and Tom Fife, the Executive Director of the Foundation of Vidant Duplin announced the names of DCS staff members who won door prizes. Vidant Duplin Hospital President Jay Briley introduced Dr. Mott Blair of Vidant Family Medicine who discussed with staff members the importance of managing stress.
“We are truly grateful to Vidant Duplin Hospital for agreeing once again to sponsor this Wellness Fair and lunch for all of our staff members,” said Duplin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan. “The health of our staff is very important to us. Giving them direct access to assessments and information vital to their well being is extremely helpful as we begin the school year. Our staff enjoys these activities and really appreciates the delicious lunch as well.”
Ashton Ballard, an 11th grader at East Duplin High School and a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee began the Convocation exercises by greeting everyone present and sharing the day’s agenda. The Wallace-Rose Hill High School JROTC Color Guard then sharply presented state and national colors as Ryan Southerland, teacher at East Duplin High School and Beulaville Elementary School, sang an amazing rendition of the National Anthem.
Reverend Nick Nielsen, Pastor of Calypso Presbyterian Church and the Chairman of the Faith-Based Advisory Committee delivered the invocation.
Board of Education Members greeted everyone present and shared with them their dedication to Duplin County Schools and their support to all employees, students, and parents. They also encouraged everyone to communicate with them to help ensure they are aware of the school system’s strengths and challenges.
Board Member David Jones said, “I have enjoyed my time on the Board, especially getting to know everybody out there that I didn’t know before. Not only are we administrators, teachers, and Board Members, we are also parents and we have children in Duplin County Schools. I just want everybody to know that to me, personally, there’s no way DCS could survive without all of you and I’m very proud to see everybody out there. Convocation also gives you an opportunity to come out and talk with some of the staff members from other schools, administrators, Dr. Obasohan and myself. I am hoping we continue to do this.”
Hubert Bowden addressed the audience saying, “All of us have become who we are because of this profession. This profession, as you know, is responsible for the success of all professions. Your job is not easy and we don’t thank you enough or as much as we should; nevertheless, I’ve come today to express thanks and appreciation for all that you do for the Duplin County School System.”
Pam Edwards shared that she has been involved in education for 41 years and while noting she represents all children in Duplin County, she brought special greetings to those who are new to the area and the profession. “For those of you who are from out of state or out of the county and this is your first year experience in education or this is your first experience coming to a small rural county like Duplin County, you have just found yourself in heaven because this is the best place in the world to teach and you have the best parents and the best students.” She went on to say, “The staff matters so much. If you love your children, then you are going to want to teach your children. I know you will have a great year.”
Vice-Chairman Reginald Kenan said he began serving on the Board in 1987 because he wanted to be involved with the best profession in the world, which, he said, is education. “A lot of times you don’t get the thanks, the praise, the acknowledgment for the job that you are doing and I say from my heart, the reason I continue to serve this county is because I believe in what you believe in- that our children can and will learn, but they can not learn unless we continue to love them, continue to nurture them, and show them we love them. If we do that, we guarantee success for our children. We have county commissioners, such as Mr. Edwards, who also believe that education must come first and I ask us to continue to work hard. We can be better as school board members and you can be better as educators and as a team we can do what is best for our children, our country, our state.”
Chairman Brent Davis said, “It’s exciting to see everyone here. It always amazes me just how many people it takes to educate the children of this county and I commend and applaud all of you in education. I don’t think I have ever done anything more rewarding or challenging at times, but it has truly been an honor to serve. I want you to know how much you are appreciated. Without you this school system wouldn’t be anything. Lastly, we want to do the absolute best job we can, but in order to do that, we’ve got to know what we need to do. I know every decision we make is not always popular, but we do try to make the best decisions for this county. I appreciate the job you do and hope it’s a great year.”
Community partners from the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office and Smithfield Foods were invited to attend Convocation and share their thoughts with Duplin County Schools’ staff.
Major Timmy Jones gave greetings on behalf of Sheriff Blake Wallace and said; “First of all, I want to thank you for what you do. Since the early 1990s the Board of Education and the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office have been in a partnership to provide School Resource Officers (SROs) for our schools. We are very fortunate that Duplin County has SROs in all of our 16 schools. We are working hard each day to make sure that you can come to work in a safe manner and our kids can come to school and learn in a safe manner. We hope you have a blessed school year and may God bless you.”
Smithfield Hog Production Division General Manager and County Commissioner Dexter Edwards spoke on behalf of Smithfield Foods and began by saying; “First off I want to thank Dr. Obasohan for giving me the privilege to be here to speak to the pillars of our community. You all are the ones that are molding and building our future. Every student that comes through your school is the future of our county, our state, and our nation. What you do is what sets that pathway.”
He emphasized that Smithfield Foods has a job for every student. “We have an opportunity that we can place them in our system. We have jobs that they can do hard work with their hands or jobs that they can come back in with doctorate degrees. Remember, they can have a job in agriculture. I want to remind you the impact you have on every child. You are the leaders. Students are looking for someone to lead them and guide them and send them in the right direction. You are that person.”
David Palomo, a senior at Duplin Early College High School spoke of how educators have made a difference in his life, especially in middle school. He said, “Something that deeply impacted me was what a staff member did. She took the time to ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ She asked questions. She was there for me. I will never forget that day. Little moments like that can save people’s lives. They impact them. That really did change my life. God has blessed me and given me teachers who are like family. I’m grateful for Dr. Obasohan who has led the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee.”
He reminded the audience that the committee was able last year to donate $15,000 dollars to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “It was a blessing. I never thought such a small county could do something so big. I look back and realize the impact. You are just one teacher, but one teacher can impact the whole classroom. My message to the teachers is, maybe you won’t remember everything you say to the students, but you can impact their lives all because you took the time to listen and motivate your students. Thank you for everything.”
Beginning Teacher Coordinator and Chair of the Teacher Advisory Committee Christy Johnson said, “You know we are all gathered here today with various reasons as to why we have chosen this profession. What are those reasons? Regardless of the reasons why we are here, or regardless of our role in our school system, we are all here to teach our students. We come to work each day to inspire and mold the future of this great nation. I would like to share with you a video compiling the voices of professionals throughout our district as they share their thoughts and feelings as to why they teach.”
After the video, Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan began his Convocation message by thanking the Board of Education for always putting children first. He went on to say, “Every year we come together to celebrate our accomplishments and to renew our commitment. I want to really tell you how much we appreciate your service. As long as you are in Duplin County Schools, you impact the lives of children and we are one big family.”
He also said that teachers do not always get the respect they deserve and noted why educators are in the profession. “Why do we teach? We are in this profession to make a difference in a child’s life. Teachers make sacrifices every single day for our kids, but you know what? In all of this, our teachers, never, ever give up, and should never, ever give up because we need all of our teachers, and administrators to get to where we are going.”
He added, “Our Board of Education has shown you how much dedication they have and they continue to show that…it’s no surprise because that is what they do every day. Every time I have a conversation with our Board the one thing they ask me what our teachers need. They want to see it from a teacher’s perspective because you are the ones in the trenches.”
He explained that public schools exist to make a difference in children’s lives and to prepare them all for the world of work. He again expressed his gratitude to the community partners who support education in Duplin County. He reminded everyone that parents depend on educators to help their children fulfill their dreams.
“A child comes to us with a dream, a master plan. Parents love their children so much and they want to see them achieve their dreams. Guess whom they turn to? They turn to us. They know their child will be respected, treated with love, and be able to accomplish his dream. It takes a special kind of person to be in education and make a positive impact in our children’s lives. It comes with challenges and sacrifice. It is a calling. The real challenge in our profession is the sacrifice we make every day to make sure our children achieve their dreams. Let’s not forget that calling, that which we have promised to do, that which we have promised to deliver.”
Dr. Obasohan emphasized accountability and standards by which education is evaluated saying, “We know there are so many things we do everyday that cannot be quantified, and for that I say thank you very much for what you do. We have great staff in our school system. We have wonderful leaders. We are going to make sure we achieve 100% of students who graduate ready to go into the work force. We need to reflect about where we want to go. We are not where we want to be. Our outcomes do not reflect in any way the caliber of the people in our school system. I am in the classrooms and you work so hard. As professionals I don’t think there is anyone in this room who will be satisfied with our results last year, but I have good news for you. We are all together in this wonderful journey. We need to maximize the resources we have. We have to build our relationships with both students and colleagues. Every moment you have with a child is so important. Let that moment count.”
He stressed that within the frameworks and tools teachers are given, he wants teachers to have flexibility to adjust instruction as needed. He said teachers and principals must be empowered to be able to make site-based decisions so DCS can continue to move forward. “This year I’m confident that we have the right people in our school system. We have the right students, and we are going to make our school system one of the best. Let’s make sure our children achieve their dreams. Let’s submit ourselves to the calling and the district goals. Teachers, we are here for you. You are not alone. We are with you because the future of our children is so important, so critical that we must continue to work together regardless of what it takes. Every, every, every child’s future matters, and that is why we teach. Let’s have a great year.”
Before delivering the closing prayer, Pastor Brad Carter said that as he looked out at all of the colorful shirts (worn by staff members to represent their schools) he was reminded that on any given Friday night, one can go to any community and have a conversation about who is best. “I’m not here to settle that argument, but one thing I think we can collectively agree on is that together we have the best school system of any county in North Carolina. I want to thank you all for all you have done. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that one of the reasons we do have one of the greatest school systems in North Carolina is because we have the greatest leader. I believe Dr. Obasohan is the most amazing superintendent not only in the state of North Carolina but the world.”
Of the Wellness Fair, lunch, and Convocation, Superintendent Obasohan said, “This is an excellent way to begin our school year. We are all together, working alongside our Board and community partners. We teach to make a difference. We teach because it is a calling. With a renewed commitment to our profession, we are ready to roll up our sleeves, begin the year and serve our amazing students!”