by: BARBARA SHERMAN - SCHOOL SUPPORT - At the annual back to school staff rally, Superintendent Heather Cordie, above, left, encourages staff members to really get to know each other and their students this year to better support them such as a teacher and bus driver did for her in the tiny Helix, Ore., school district. Actors, above, right, played students who were nervous, anxious, excited or happy about returning to school for the new year.Although the word “welcome” was used a lot, there was nothing else about Sherwood’s annual back to school staff rally, held Aug. 27, like the ‘70s’ TV series, “Welcome back, Kotter.”

Instead of remedial wise guys nicknamed the “Sweathogs,” the bleachers in Sherwood High School’s gym were packed with teachers and classified staff pumped up about the upcoming school year.

Gary Burnett, the district’s new chief academic officer, acted as MC, and the program placed a lot of emphasis on students, with some giving up part of one of their last days of summer vacation to participate in the event.

“Let’s have a rockin’ 2012-13 school year!” said student body Vice President Chelsey Balderree, who kicked off the program along with student body President Cassie McMaster.

The SHS marching band raised the excitement level in the gym with a rousing musical number that included the color guard.

The presidents of the classified and certified staff unions also were in on the act, with Terrel Smith of the certified union introducing a video showing children around the world and adding “fun infusion” to serious learning.

“I really believe we have a great school district,” said School Board President Andy Pihl. “We are a model of leadership for many other school districts in the state, and we are known around the country, but there is a huge potential out there for even better things.”

Pihl said he realizes the staff faces new challenges with increased budget cuts this year, “and I want to say thank you for your dedication and hard work.”

Student actors from different grade levels in the school district lined up and told their “personal” stories along with the challenges and advantages of starting a new school year.

“I’m excited to go into sixth grade and get a locker,” a boy said; and a girl added, “I still don’t know to read too well, and I need to know what’s in those books.”

Their topics ranged from getting new clothes to more serious goals, such as “Help me finish high school and be the first in my family to get a college degree.”

The presentation ended with a boy saying, “We’re Sherwood kids. Some of us are smart, and some are struggling. We’re Sherwood kids. If anyone can be a success, it’s us! We’re Sherwood!”

The kids were a hard act to follow for Superintendent Heather Cordie, who praised the young actors and pointed out that everyone has a story.

She encouraged staff members to get to know the people on their team and others they work with, and she talked about growing up in Helix, Ore., with only seven in her graduating class.

Cordie credited two people in particular for supporting a young, insecure girl when she needed support the most – a teacher, Mrs. Baker, and a bus driver, Miss Blanche – telling how they helped her through moments of crisis.

“I know each of you goes to those lengths and more,” Cordie said. “I know you have more kids to teach with fewer resources. Your work matters to us in the community but mostly to the kids you teach.”

Cordie talked about teaching in the 21st century, reminded the staff that they are teaching not Generation X or Y but Generation Z or the “iGeneration.”

“The way they learn is much different than the rest of us,” she said. “Younger students are on a faster pace and spend more time with digital media that TV… They view technology not as an extra but a key component of their lives.”

Cordie reiterated the district’s goal that every student will meet individual growth targets in reading, writing and math with instruction based on the transition to the common core state standards, the implementation of a proficiency-based model of teaching and learning, and a more rigorous focus on instructional technology.

“We’re doing great work,” Cordie concluded. “We will continue to hit the ball out of the park while we are still learning.”

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