DeKalb County School District (DCSD) held a convocation at the Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett County on Aug. 4, bringing together more than 13,000 employees for a day of performances, inspirational speeches and fellowship.
On Aug. 4, official DCSD Twitter accounts and accounts from district employees were flooded with images and videos of the event. In both, groups from each school donned school colors or wore school-specific T-shirts to show pride in their community. The pictures and videos also showed school officials speaking, dancing, celebrating and welcoming the incoming 2017-2018 school year.
“My superintendent is better than yours!” read one Tweet featuring DCSD Superintendent R. Stephen Green dancing. “Every little step he takes is for our DeKalb County students!”
Less than one week later, at the Aug. 7 DCSD board of education meeting, employees and DeKalb County residents expressed reactions to the $100,000 event, the majority of which were favorable.
DCSD received mixed initial reactions in July when the convocation was announced. Teachers said they wanted to keep the last day of pre-planning—Aug. 4—inside the classroom. Others questioned the use of funds for a pep-rally, citing a similar event hosted by former superintendent Crawford Lewis in 2002.
DCSD board of education chairman Melvin Johnson opened the Aug. 7 board of education work session meeting by expressing appreciation for the convocation to Green and other DCSD staff.
“It was exceptional; it was very motivational—at one time I thought we were in a rock session with all the music, smiles, shouting and whatnot,” Johnson said. “It was exceptional and good for the county.”
Board of education member Marshall Orson also spoke favorably about the event.
“There was a very good feeling on [Aug. 4],” Orson said. “People were enthusiastic and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from it. It was an opportunity to bring a lot of people throughout the county together who don’t have an opportunity to do so. It was incredible.”
Resident and Redan High School supporter Sandy Purkett said she felt compelled to rush and thank district officials on Aug. 7 for a successful convocation.
“Thank you and all your supporting staff for a job well done on the convocation,” Purkett said. “I appreciate you taking the recommendation to have an event that was all-inclusive for staff of all levels to give their all and show that we, as a DeKalb family, plan to defeat the odds and kick off a great year for success. I believe that every step you take this year will go toward positive change.”
Resident Sundra Burdette wrapped up her public input by stating, “Dr. Green, I didn’t know you could move like that!” causing laughter from both the board and attendees.
DeKalb County NAACP education chairman Lance Hammonds had mixed feelings about the event.
“The perception was those are dollars that could have been used somewhere else. We’re not going to get into how [the district] use [funds,] we all understand the value of a team and motivating a team,” Hammonds said. “The biggest perception was, why would we spend our money in Gwinnett County? Maybe we didn’t have a place in DeKalb, but we don’t like seeing our money spent in other counties, especially a county that raids our teaching staff.”
In July, DCSD director of strategic communications Andre Riley said the venue was chosen because of its size as well as the district’s desire to house all staff.
“It’s one of the few facilities near [the district] in greater Atlanta that could host more than 13,000 people, or nearly all of our staff,” Riley said. “There are no facilities in DeKalb County large enough to host the majority of our staff.”
According to DCSD’s website, James R. Hallford Stadium near Clarkston High School has a capacity of 15,600.
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