Senior Jack Murphy opened with a piano performance of a piece from Rachmaninoff and closed with a guitar rendition of Dave Matthews Band’s “Where Are You Going” to highlight the start of the 2016-17 school year for the Neenah Joint School District staff.
It marked the seventh straight year of a student-led convocation in Pickard Auditorium. Murphy was the Master of Ceremonies and was joined by his fellow Neenah High School show choir teammates in a performance of “Cross the Line” from the musical “Big.” Cross the Line was introduced as a theme for the staff for the upcoming year in remarks by Superintendent Dr. Mary Pfeiffer.
The Neenah Police Department color guard presented the colors and detective Pat Pedersen sang the national anthem. Staff members were clad in red and white and made contributions to local charities. A total of 1,580 pounds of food were donated to Ruth’s Pantry in annual Bob Melzer Food Drive, while contributions of school supplies were collected for the Educator’s Closet and money was raised for flood relief for teachers in the Baton Rouge (La.) School District.
Murphy spoke about some of the teachers who have had great impact upon him in Neenah. He encouraged staff to make strong personal relationships with their students and how these personal connections have helped him during tough times.
First-year school board president Michelle Swardenski made an inspiring speech and received a standing ovation for her remarks. The Neenah High School graduate gave passionate comments about the importance doing what you love and reminding them of the impact teachers can have on children.
Pfeiffer introduced the idea of “Partnering for a Collective Impact” and noted that each school will be paired with a school board member during the upcoming year with the task of determining what that phrase means for their staff. She also provided updates on areas from the District’s strategic plan.
The event featured over $3,100 in door prizes for randomly-selected staff members provided by several Neenah businesses and District business partners. Included in the prizes were an autographed Brett Favre football, Packer tickets, a GoPro camera, fitness items and numerous gift cards to local businesses. Nine days off were also distributed where one of the District Administrators will sub for a teacher or non-certified staff member. The staff member may choose any day during the school year for the administrative sub.
The new employees introduced themselves in a video and the 2015-16 Employees of the Year were honored. Each school principal also provided a video “shout-out” on an accomplishment from his or her school during the past year.
A wellness expo with various local organizations and businesses followed in the cafeteria. The entire staff returned to Pickard Auditorium afterwards for a showing of the film, “Most Likely to Succeed,” about the future of education in the 21st century and the importance of teaching critical skills needed for the workforce rather than just memorization of information.