School district kicks year off ‘thinking red’

By NIKKI SMITH,

Petal School District administrators, faculty and staff kicked off the 2017-18 school year with the district’s annual opening convocation.

The convocation is a time to get all employees together each year to get everyone excited for the upcoming school year and rally around the new theme for the year.

The 2017-18 school year theme is “Think Red: Prepared. Inspired. Empowered.”

Superintendent Matt Dillon addressed school district employees following the opening video. He welcomed all the new staff members to the district.

“We have several new faces in our district this year,” he said. “Forty-two new certified staff members and 32 support staff members join the Petal Panther family.”

“Let’s give them a warm Petal Panther welcome,” he added.

Dillon encouraged the district employees to prepare to embark on the “180-day marathon we’re going to run.”

“And all you new teachers, you’ve died and gone to heaven,” he said. “You’re part of the best school district around. I know that you’re going to make an impact right off the bat.”

Each year, Dillon said the focus of the district changes up just a bit to fit the areas that need improvement.

For the 2017-18 school year, the focus will be on the “big three,” which are attendance, social and emotional needs and advanced programs.

“While we do things to address these areas, we need to focus and dig deeper,” Dillon said.

As far as attendance, Dillon said a change in culture will be required to solve the problem.

“We do a wonderful job of incentives at the building level,” he said. “But I think this will require a change of culture in the area. We need students here every time the doors are open. Because we know what we can do with them when they're here.”

“We only have 180 days of students,” he said. “They are critically important, and I know the importance of having you here.”

Some of the social and emotional needs that Dillon discussed were of students not being fed, being bathed or facing abuse at home, among others.

“These are what we called adverse childhood experiences,” he said. “Until we meet their physical and emotional needs, sometimes it is hard to educate them. We want to better equip students to cope when they leave the district.”

Last, he said the district will work to further advanced programs to allow students all the opportunity they can to grow.

“We want to help students be all that they can,” he said.

Mitch Williams, former sports broadcaster, was the keynote speaker. He spoke to Petal School District employees based on the “Think Red” theme.

Williams told the teachers that how the school year turns out all comes down to attitude. He encouraged them to check their attitudes each day, because he said a positive attitude is the only way to a successful year.