Most people don’t realize that it takes six months to prepare for Daviess County Public Schools’ Opening Day festivities, an event that occurs each year on the day prior to the first day of school. What makes this event special is that every DCPS employee is invited, from teachers and administrators to the cafeteria and maintenance staff, in an effort to inspire staff members and start the year energized.
The one year someone suggested possibly doing away with Opening Day, Superintendent Matt Robbins kindly dismissed the idea, saying, “That is the only time of year I have ALL of my staff together…to celebrate the one thing we love most — kids.”
This year’s presentation drew its inspiration from the Academy Award-winning musical, “The Greatest Showman.” Each detail was carefully planned — from songs and performances down to props and decor, and, according to the Assistant to the Superintendent, Dana Boarman, “everything single thing we did in district.” Props and selfie stations were created by students and staff members, a student choir was assembled from students from all three school grade levels, not to mention the involvement of students as baby elephants, and the transportation department as bearded ladies and ringleaders.
Robbins told staff members in his video invitation, “We truly have the best, and some of the most incredible talent in our district.” Robbins wasn’t just referring to the talent of those participating on stage today. He was also referring to the hard work staff member puts into their job every day in an effort to put “Kids First.”
As part of the ceremony, outstanding teachers and support staff members were recognized. Boarman said, “This year there were open nominations,” which is a little different than the nomination process in years past, where each school selected a teacher to nominate. Instead, members of the DCPS Future Leaders Academy and administrators went through the pool of candidates and made their selections based on classroom visits and observations.
The following nominees were awarded the first ever Kids First sculptures:
The 2018 DCPS Kids First Elementary Teacher of the Year was Marcia Tomes, a primary teacher and interventionist at Southern Oaks Elementary School, who specializes in working with students who are English language learners.
The 2018 DCPS Kids First Middle School Teacher of the Year was Jennifer McFadden, a social studies teacher at Daviess County Middle School, who was one of the first at her school to embrace mastery grading and learning, and was responsible for creating the Elite Panther Award.
The 2018 DCPS Kids First High School Teacher of the Year was Carrie Whitmer, a math teacher at Daviess County High School, who quietly makes a difference every day through her commitment to the teaching profession and her willingness to serve others – students and colleagues alike.
The 2018 DCPS Kids First Office Professional Award was presented to technology specialist Ken Roberts, whose contributions have had a positive impact on the work performed by every member of the DCPS staff – and has also benefited students and their families.
Louise Weston, cafeteria manager at Daviess County Middle School, was named 2018 DCPS Kids First Customer Service Award winner. She received nominations from 17 colleagues for demonstrating an outstanding willingness to accommodate the special dietary needs of students.
While there were references made to some of the minor setbacks of the 2017 school year, including water main breaks, flooding and freezing conditions, and pension debates, the overall message of the day was a positive one. According to Apollo High School senior, and co-emcee, Gracelyn Bush, “Despite some tough days, we know the show must go on, and that’s why we’re here today.”
In the end, Daviess County High School senior, and co-emcee, Jayln Griffith reminded the crowd that, “It is through education that we can dream a million dreams.”