There has been cheerleading, words of encouragement and serious messages for employees of the Vilonia School District, this week, as they have been preparing for the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 15.
The events began with a majority of the faculty were in attendance. Donuts were provided by Lane Dental Clinic and the district Leadership Team cheered as everyone entered the First Baptist Church.
Assistant superintendent Cathy Riggins served as the emcee. Several were on stage during the event providing updates and introducing new employees. The Leadership Team was announced including Vandy Nash, Debbie Knowles, Elizabeth Kelley, Matt Sewell, Ronnie Simmons, Lori Lombardi, Andy Pennington, Kelly Walters, Susan Loyd, Rick Kelley, Tim Bullington, Ronnie Partee, Amy Goers, Kim Lacy, Jody Brewer and Josh Hart. They participated in several aspects of the activities including serving as cheerleaders for a couple of skits.
Ed Sellers, assistant superintendent/athletic director, served as the main guest speaker.
There’s no “unimportant” people in the Vilonia School District, he said, in the address to faculty and staff.
“You are all responsible for a part in building a foundation for education,” he said.
Just as in building a building, he said, there are people who are responsible for digging footers, finishing concrete, hauling dirt, and those who put on the finishing touches.
“We call it teaching, but it is really about building a foundation,” he said. “We all work together to put our mark on that graduating class every year and it starts in kindergarten.”
He encouraged everyone to work as one school with a “spirit of unity,” to graduate students with the highest degree possible.
“There are six buildings, six sets of administrators, six sets of custodians, six sets of cafeteria workers, six sets of instructors,” Sellers said. “You get the message. We have six sets of everything but the have one school district. We are all in this together. There is no unimportant people in the Vilonia School District. The only thing we have one of is—one set of graduates every year.”
He also talked briefly about his personal experiences as a youngster. A couple of teachers really made a lasting effect on his life. They went the extra mile, he said. He encouraged teachers to do the same. Be observant, Sellers said.
“Many of your students may be at risk,” he said. “Kids have a hard time and s it is not their fault. Some of their homes may not be as stable as they should be. Sometimes, you are the most stable person they see on a regular basis. Ask yourself how you can help them. Sometimes, you just have to care. They need you to care and you have to reach out.”
He called the names of some former teachers as well as current ones, who, he said, have helped their students outside the classroom. Those teachers have purchased shoes, clothing and provided avenues for bathing and toiletries.
“There will be students in our community that need help,” Sellers said. “The good news is they have you to help.”
Sellers also touted the praises of Dr. David Stephens who was absent from the festivities. It was said Stephens was on federal jury duty. He’s a great man, Sellers said. “He wants you to make decisions based on the best interest of students.”
Riggins provided updates on many programs. She also praised those who have been working throughout the summer in preparation for the students to return. Last year’s district theme, Riggins said, was “Blazing Trails. This year, she said, the theme is “Blazing Trails to Excel” as a team.
In her address to the faculty, Riggins read a poem about what it means to be a Vilonia Eagle. She talked about the characteristics of the eagle, a “great, majestic creature,” and what humans may learn from them. They mate for life, she said. They also have vision, she said, which is a successful leadership quality. They are fearless and face problems head on. They are tenacious when it comes to challenges, she said. They are high flyers. They don’t fly like other birds. Instead, she said, “they soar. They sit high on a ledge and wait.” The eagle, she said, “reminds us to our fuel wisely.”
They revitalize themselves by going through a metamorphism. “Renewal is necessary for every one of us—even when it causes pain,” she said.
She also talked about the way eagles nurture their young. Research has shown that no member of the bird family is more gentle and attentive to its young ones than the eagles, she said. She talked about how a mother eagle nudges her eaglets out of the nest allowing them to fall—always catching them—until they learn to fly on their own.
“This is our job,” she concluded. “We take care of them until they can learn to fly on their own.”