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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The First Day

There is nothing like watching over 300 learners, children, adolescents and young adults walking up the sidewalk, sporting new clothes, bearing backpacks, and boasting smiles, to inspire your efforts and reaffirm your commitment as an educator. I enjoyed visiting with parents and grandparents and welcoming everyone to school on this opening day. I even got to help out by taking pictures of families as they sat on the newly installed benches that flank the stairs of the entrance

Our responsibility at Heatly is a public covenant prominently displayed on the letterhead and website of our school. Our mission states our purpose: "Every student will graduate prepared for college, career, and citizenship." It's that simple - and that challenging. The words are minimal, but long on meaning. However, the measure we use to determine our success is not located within a database of numbers or test scores, but rather on the faces of the children eagerly approaching the school doors. Our primary task can be identified by reducing the many activities of school personnel into one sentence - like the reduction of fractions to their lowest terms - make sure that the children enter the school with a smile each morning and leave with a smile each afternoon. That's actually a statement very similar to the one that the late Walt Disney used when urging employees to promote the success of his world famous Disney World complex - "Make sure all of the guests leave with the same smile they had when they arrived."

It's our task to find out what might have occurred to rob a child of a reason to smile as they begin their day, and try to change that experience through appropriate interventions designed to resurrect hope and opportunity. Our commitment throughout each and every child's day in school is to generate reasons to maintain the level of hopes and dreams that produce smiles.

Within minutes of arriving at school, the children exchange greetings with classmates separated by the summer, comment on new clothes, whisper anxiously about their teachers, and retreat to their respective classrooms. The hallways are silent. As I walk through the building I am amazed at how quickly the atmosphere of the school becomes task oriented. Each classroom I peer into reveals the same signs of an engaging environment that one would expect to find on the 75th or the 125th day of school. The transformation is nothing short of remarkable and every bit a testament to the professionalism and commitment of our staff.

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