Teachers, staff return for 2023-24 school year

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Stevens and Assistant Superintendent Kelly Webster kicked off the 2023-24 school year during two Opening Days packed with professional learning and other activities for teachers and staff.

Superintendent stands at podium and speaks to teachers, staff seated in school auditorium. Assistant superintendent stands at podium speaking to audience of teachers and staff seated in auditorium.

On day 1, Dr. Stevens began with his answer to the question: Why am I here? “Because ‘We Are Vliet’ and it’s about every student, every day!

He went on to explain the pride he continues to feels after 17 years as a Cannoneer — first as a 6th grade teacher, later as an administrator, and now as superintendent of schools.

“When you put your head on your pillow each night, you can rest assured that you have made a difference in at least one student’s life each and every day. It’s what makes our school community such a special place,” he said.

Dr. Stevens listed the ways in which the district goes the extra mile to help support students and families, with such initiatives as the Food is Fuel weekend backpack program; a school-based health clinic with Whitney Young Health; clothes closets in each building; free breakfast, lunch and snacks for all students; an extended school day offering academic and enrichment activities; preschool programs for 3- and 4-year old children, and family counseling.

“But most of all, we have the most dedicated and caring staff,” he added. “I cannot tell you what your ‘why’ is, but I sincerely hope you embrace mine. Because we owe it to these kids to bring our ‘A’ game each and every day.”

Group of teachers and staff seated on bleachers in school gymnasium. Welcome Back banner on a fence in front if the athletic field with blue sky, scoreboard and school building in the background.

Dr. Stevens then outlined the district’s goals and priorities for the school year.

Goal #1: All students will be instructed with a rigorous standards-based curriculum.

  • Increased instructional minutes
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Instructional
  • Data analysis
  • Equitable grading

Goal #2: All students will challenge themselves socially and intellectually based on individual needs

  • College in the High School Courses
  • Increased CTE opportunities
  • PIVOT program for all ninth-graders
  • *New* EVOLVE program (alternative pathway for high school)
  • *New* Family Opportunity Center
  • Second Step – Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum

Goal #3: All students will be supported in a safe and positive school climate

  • Cell phone/device free learning environments
  • Focus on chronic absenteeism and tardiness
  • Promote school belonging and Cannoneer Pride
  • Grades 6-12 mentoring

Goal #4: All staff will be supported in a positive workplace environment

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Support

Dr. Stevens shared his excitement about the endless possibilities that are in store during the year ahead, and he challenged educators to reflect on their instructional approaches. “How do we engage students; how do we grade students; how do we teach?”

To wrap up, he encouraged educators and staff to “Have fun this year! Do something different, stay kind, and teach [students]!”

Watch the Welcome Back video