Story and Photos by James Preminger, CCSD Public Relations
The District packed a lot of information on school safety and education into its annual two day all staff Back-to-School meeting, held Aug. 10 and 11, 2016 at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center and the neighboring Shiprock High School.
“We brought the whole staff together to welcome them to CCSD, or welcome them back, to give some inspirational speakers, to get them excited for a new year, and also do some training on different topics that need to be covered by everybody,” said Don Hornbecker, Coordinator of Elementary Education.
More than 1,100 Central Consolidated School District employees—including teachers, building principals, maintenance workers, technology, Food Service, educational aides, and numerous others—kicked off the new school year with trainings, orientations, and professional learning communities a week ahead of students returning to the classrooms.
The first day’s training topics—with presentations led by Cindy Charleston, the District’s Health and Wellness specialist, as well as other speakers—ranged from school safety, and school and District Incident Command teams, to suicide prevention and bullying prevention.
There was also a presentation by a plainclothes Navajo Police officer on the latest trends of what defines a gang, a look at their illegal drug activity, their motivations, and how they act and dress.
“I feel it’s important because we all need to hear the same message,” Charleston said. “We all need to remember we are all responsible for safety.”
The second day completely switched gears with a focus on curriculum, curriculum maps, and teacher content guides—led by academic coach Bernie Lewis. Teachers and support staff also had professional learning communities, known as PLCs.
The PLCs allowed departments such as Exceptional Programs and Pre-K staff, Student Support Services, Bilingual, athletic directors and coaches, and Facilities to meet separately to discuss their goals and objectives for the upcoming year, which begins Aug. 16 with the first day of school.
Other PLCs included financial secretaries and Century 21, as well as elementary and secondary teachers and support staff.
The District’s 15 schools are spread out across nearly 3,000 square miles, from Kirtland to Ojo Amarillo to Shiprock, Newcomb, and Naschitti in the northwest corner of New Mexico.
“This training is a chance we don’t usually have to get all of our teams together to talk about things that directly relate to our department,” said Director of Facilities Eric James. “To have everyone here—custodial staff, maintenance here under one roof—it’s powerful.
“We found some value being able to sit in on the teacher training—it’s not just for teachers, it’s for all of us—like the training on bullying and gangs,” he added. “We see each other as all part of the same team working together for the same cause.”
CCSD School Board President Randy Manning, Vice President Adam Begaye, and Secretary Christina Aspaas visited with teachers and staff during their training but did not hold a quorum.
“These teachers are here to do one job—to make sure our students are inspired by their inspiration of their work and they’re able to go on for higher education and come back with a degree,” said Begaye, a Shiprock High graduate and college student. “We have to impact our students by giving our hearts to them.”
Later, more than 1,100 employees assembled in the Shiprock High School Chieftain basketball arena, known as the Pit.
They were welcomed into the arena listening to classical guitar selections played by Shiprock High senior Jalen John, who was followed by the Kirtland Central High School cheerleading squad performing several dance routines.
Board President Manning presented Dr. Deborah Waters, with the Indian Health Service at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, with a blanket, and thanked her for serving CCSD students through the years.
Dr. Waters specializes in sports medicine and works at the school-based health clinics at Shiprock High, Kirtland Central High, and Newcomb High.
Motivational speaker James Junes, part of the comedy team of James & Ernie, spoke to the staff on education.
Those whose support helped make the two-day Back-to-School meeting possible included Manfred Duncan, the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center long-time technician and manager. He was joined in Shiprock by Chris Overson, his counterpart at the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center in Kirtland.
Support for the event was also provided by Technology Coordinator Rick Nussbaum and the District’s PC technicians, as well as by Human Resources who hosted lunch the second day.
Also providing support by hosting the training was Shiprock High’s new Principal John Tohtsoni Jr., its new Vice Principal Jeff Sagor, and its new Dean of Students and Athletic Director Dannell Yazzie.
New staff orientation took place Aug. 8 at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center, while an annual cultural day for new teachers took place Aug. 9 with a bus trip this year to the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.
The week before principals met at the District administration for a series of week-long meetings with the District administration in preparation for the upcoming school year.