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RCPS Charting the Course with 2022 Faculty Convocation

The 2022 RCPS Faculty Convocation was held August 3 at the Berglund Center Performing Arts Center with over 1,200 teachers and administrators, including 190 new teachers. The atmosphere was exciting and festive as teachers were welcomed to the event by student drumlines and cheerleaders from Cave Spring High School, Glenvar High School, Hidden Valley High School, Northside High School, and William Byrd High School. The 2022 Convocation was the fourth annual gathering of teachers from across the district, but the first in-person convocation since 2019. 

2022 faculty convocation

Following greetings from School Board Chair David Linden and the playing of the national anthem by students from all five RCPS high schools, teachers were treated to a presentation from special guest speaker Gerry Brooks. Brooks provided encouragement and inspiration as well as a humorous take on the life of educators. A veteran educator, Brooks related his own experiences and challenged teachers to treat all students with the dignity and respect they deserve; a message met with thunderous applause from the audience. 

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gerry brooks

Following the guest speaker, Superintendent Ken Nicely thanked teachers, both veteran and new, for their hard work and investment in the lives of Roanoke County children. Dr. Nicely affirmed the RCPS destination toward developing students who are "Opportunity Ready" and assured staff that they were ready and prepared for charting the course ahead in 2022-2023. 

Here are excerpts from Dr. Nicely's message:

Gerry Brooks is certainly a hard act to follow, and you will be relieved to know that I will keep my remarks brief. There are a few things, though, that I want to make sure you know while we are here together this morning and as we prepare for this new school year.

First, I want you to know how proud I am and how privileged I feel to be superintendent of this great school system. We are not a perfect school division, as none can claim to be, but we are a great school division; and we are a great school division because you make us a great school division. You are part of something very special in the world of public education. There are 132 school divisions in Virginia, and Roanoke County Public Schools, as evidenced by multiple measures, is consistently among the best in the Commonwealth.

That is not hyperbole; that is a fact. We are going to touch on our C-Change Framework and the importance of Balance here in a moment; but we know that Balance means that we want our schools to be accredited. That is not something we can take for granted, since accreditation is a highly complex process that often feels like a moving target. It is, nonetheless, important and often comes down to a handful of students making it over the line. I am proud to say that, due to your relentless efforts and hard work, all 27 Roanoke County schools will be fully accredited for this year. In fact, despite the challenges of the pandemic, in 2021, of 132 Virginia school divisions, RCPS ranked 15th with our reading performance and 8th in the Commonwealth with our math performance and we expect to see a similar performance for 2022. YOU did that and you should be proud! 

Whether you have been here for 30 years or more or this is your first year with us, you are a part of something special and, more importantly, you BELONG.  In fact, let’s take a moment and celebrate the folks in the room that make up our Roanoke County family, starting with all of our new teachers and staff.

If this is your first year with Roanoke County Public Schools, would you please stand and let us all welcome you to the team!  

If this new school year marks your second, third, fourth, or fifth year with RCPS, would you please stand and let us thank you! 

If you are beginning years 6 through 19 with RCPS, would you please stand and let us celebrate you! 

If you are beginning years 20 through 29 with RCPS, would you please stand and be recognized! 

I will now take a moment of personal privilege and say that I made the wonderful decision of joining the RCPS team as a teacher in 1993, meaning that I am starting my 30th year with RCPS. It’s been an amazing and unexpected journey and one that I would not change.

If you are in the same club and beginning your 30 or MORE years with Roanoke County Public Schools, would you please stand and let us tell you how much we appreciate you! 

Most of you know my wife and I returned home to the Roanoke Valley in 1993 after living in Central America for a couple of years, and what an adventure and blessing that was. We wanted to come home, though, to raise our family. We have 3 children and we are so grateful for the help and support we had along the way from you, the RCPS teachers and staff who invested in their learning and their lives, from kindergarten through graduation. Thank you.

That is what you do: you invest in the lives of children. Our story is one that is repeated every year with the over 13,000 students that you welcome into your schools and classrooms and expertly teach and positively influence.

As we begin the 2022-2023 school year, we are charting the course forward. We have the map. You know the way. Let’s watch this brief reminder of who we are and the path we are on together.

RCPS Opportunity Ready video

Every year brings new challenges, but also new opportunities.

We still have a lot of work to do to meet the needs of individual students and close gaps exacerbated by conditions over the last two years. It takes time and persistence, but we can do that, and we know how to do that. 

Our students need care and support, along with clear expectations for behavior and how to treat one another. Thanks to the hard work you have done and are doing around PBIS, you are setting those clear expectations even as you surround your students with the sense of care, respect and belonging that everyone deserves. That is the Climate portion of our C-Change Framework. We can do that, and we know how to do that.

Earlier, I mentioned Balance. The other side of balance is creating and cultivating the kind of learning culture in which students love learning and are excited to learn.

Where does it start? It starts with us! Our own passion for learning and getting excited about what we are teaching is contagious! This drives this idea of “deeper learning”: learning that is engaging and purposeful. As we have repeated many times, there are many ways to make that happen, and the work you started last year with the simple ideas of the “Four Shifts Protocol” are a great place to start. We can do that, and we know how to do that.

As we chart the course for the new school year, there is not a doubt in mind that we have the right crew on board. That is you and the many others who are part of the RCPS team. We also know the destination and how to get there. The destination is to prepare every student, in every school, and in every classroom to be Opportunity Ready. Working together as a team, let’s chart a course for success for the 2022-2023 school year. You’ve got this!  Now let’s get to work and don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the journey. I am thankful for you all. 

Dr. Nicely