Convocation opens Gary school year
By Lisa DeNeal Post-Tribune correspondent August 19, 2013 10:44PM
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:17AM
GARY — Teachers in the Gary Community School Corp. were given inspiring reasons to return for the 2013-2014 school year while attending the annual Back to School convocation Monday at West Side Leadership Academy.
School starts Wednesday, and this year’s theme is “Doing what’s best for students — today, tomorrow, everyday!”
Gary native, Wirt High School alumnus and Rhodes scholar Carlton Long told the audience that teachers and their impressions are forever in their students’ memories.
“Students see teachers as a different person than their parents … than anyone else on the face of this earth,” Long said. “Children sit at the feet of teachers. They trust teachers with their hearts. If a parent tells his or her child to do something, that child will say, ‘but my teacher said.’ Teachers, even after you’ve made your transition in life, you will remain in your students’ hearts.”
“We are the only profession that makes all other professions possible. We are the reason. You are my reason for who I am today,” Long continued.
Despite a layoff of 95 teachers last month and a $17 million deficit, Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said gains have been made since last school year.
She said the $17 million deficit is down from $23 million and that interim chief finance officer Michael Washington is working to improve the cash flow by the end of the year. Pruitt added that thanks to Information Technology Director Lloyd Keith and his team, 4,000 computers are now updated on software and the telephone system is being updated after six years.
“They are also cleaning up old computers that students will be able to take home if necessary for school work,” Pruitt said.
Teachers applauded when Pruitt announced that they do not have to buy toiletries because supplies have been provided. A new food service contract with a compny owned by NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Sodexo Magic, has been signed.
State Rep. Vernon Smith and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson encouraged cooperation and working together for the sake of the children.
“The futures of our children are already shaped for success,” Freeman-Wilson said. “The Gary Community School Corp. has shaped children into CEOs, mayors, Rhodes scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, teachers — and will continue to shape them into successful people. The key to success is partnership.”
Smith said God is also the key in helping children.
“Children will not change their behaviors unless they change their values. We, the adults, the parents, are so busy giving children stuff that we did not have, instead of giving them what we did have and that is God, discipline, determination, values,” Smith said.
West Side Leadership Academy 2013 salutatorian Christopher Williams, who is autistic and made the transition from special education to the honors program, brought the audience to its feet.
Williams will attend Purdue University Calumet to major in mechanical engineering and technology with a minor in fine arts. He thanked his mother, Charletta Williams, as one of the reasons behind his success.
“Dreams are the wings of the mind; you can fly anytime,” Christopher said, quoting the lyrics of a song, “Children Hold onto Your Dreams,” by William “Wee Gee” Howard.