Staff members from schools around the county came out to celebrate a new year at the Harnett County Schools’ annual convocation event which was held on the campus of Campbell University Thursday.
Teachers — most sitting with other employees of their individual schools in color-coordinated shirts — came in large groups for the annual event which is held the week before classes begin.
All Harnett County School students return to class Monday morning.
The event Thursday featured motivational speeches, encouraging words from administrators, inspirational music and fun for all those in attendance.
It is meant to prepare teachers for the challenges that await in the new school year.
“This event should get you all ready to meet our students when they arrive for the first day of classes,” Harnett County Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming said.
Western Harnett High School teacher Casey Avent encouraged her fellow teachers. Mrs. Avent is the current Harnett County Teacher of the Year and teaches biology.
“It is our job to teach students to persevere beyond mediocrity,” Ms. Avent said.
She also said teachers need to strive for excellence.
“It is not our choice to be mediocre with someone else’s child,” Mrs. Avent said.
She had another message for teachers.
“Take time to smile and be personable to all your students, that is important,” Mrs. Avent said.
The head educator in the state, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, spoke at the convocation for the second year in a row.
He also encouraged teachers as they begin another year.
“I want to thank you for your service to our students,” Mr. Johnson said. “You are the main part of making their success a reality.”
All members of the Harnett County Board of Education were on hand for the event.
One board member, Vivian Bennett, is also a retired teacher. She said the convocation has grown in recent years.
“We had a convocation, but it wasn’t anything like this,” Mrs. Bennett said. “I think it is a good thing because this will motivate them as they start school again.”
The keynote speaker for this year’s convocation was Dr. Todd Whitaker who is a nationally known author and motivational speaker. He took time in his remarks Thursday to recognize groups who sometimes are overlooked including maintenance staff, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and school clerical staff.
Dr. Whitaker is known for his books on what good educators do in the classroom. He said there is one mark of a teacher’s success.
“In a great teacher’s classroom, every kid thinks they are the favorite student,” Dr. Whitaker said.
Harnett County Schools Public Information Officer Natalie Ferrell helped organize Thursday’s event and was pleased with how it went.
“I thought it was very energetic this year and our staff members really seemed to enjoy it,” Mrs. Ferrell said.
School officials anticipate a smooth opening Monday. That includes at the newest site in the county — Benhaven Elementary School. A new school is replacing the old Benhaven facility.
“There may be some work going on outside the building, but our teachers have moved in and we will be ready to go,” Dr. Fleming said.
The new Benhaven Elementary School is located in the Western Harnett Industrial Park off N.C. 87.
The regular schedule is also expected to be maintained at Erwin Elementary School, where there have been maintenance concerns in recent days.
Dr. Fleming said as of Thursday the school is scheduled to welcome students Monday.
Residents of the Erwin community petitioned county commissioners Monday night to approve funding for a new school in Erwin, but no decision has been made at the current time. School officials have placed a new Erwin school as the top priority for new school buildings in the county.