United in Kindness theme unveiled during Staff Opening Day

A contingent of teachers and staff all dressed in t-shirts with the words United in Kindness emblazoned on the front and back streamed into the gymnasium on staff opening day. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Stevens greeted them with these words:

“Today is not about ‘doing work’ – today is about getting to know each other, establishing relationships, exploring curriculum, opening our minds, and feeling united,” he said. “It’s not just the shirts we are all wearing, but the message. I am declaring that this school year, we are United in Kindness!”

Superintendent of schools dressed in black United in Kindness t-shirt, standing at podium smiling out at audience.Black t-shirt with words United in Kindness on the back.

Dr. Stevens, who began his career with the district years ago as a sixth-grade teacher, marked his first official opening day as superintendent of schools today following his appointment to the leadership role 10 months ago.

“I can vaguely remember my introduction as a new teacher during opening day some 17 years ago. It wasn’t long after that I realized Watervliet City Schools was my new home,” he said. “Welcome to the absolute best district I know!”

Dr. Stevens welcomed back faculty and staff, and introduced the over 30 new educators and support staff members who are joining the district this year.

“Each new employee has varying years of experience in their field. Some of them recently moved to the Capital Region, some are coming back to Watervliet, some were looking for a smaller district, some were looking for an urban district, and some were graduating college and happy to get a job,” he noted. “Whatever their story, I hope they share it with us and we share our stories with them. This is how we build relationships and strengthen our Watervliet family.”

Dr. Stevens went on to note the changes in the administrative team this summer and promised that every decision made has been about what is in the best interest of students.

“Combined the nine of us have a total of 166 years in education, with 88 years of leadership experience. We are a team of administrators who got our start in childhood education, literacy, special education, secondary English, secondary mathematics, and school counseling, in addition to our educational leadership degrees,” he said. “Our strengths include organization, empathy, relationship building, accountability, technology, mediation, collaboration, curiosity, energy, big picture perspective, systems, and knowledge of the community to name a few. I am extremely confident in this team of administrators and excited for the year ahead of us.”

Dr. Stevens then summarized COVID-19 guidance and protocols for the 2022-23 school year, reviewed district goals, and reminded staff about their roles in building safety and security.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Kelly Webster spoke next. “I look forward to working alongside each of you to build a culture of learning and open up doors for our students whether it be college or career,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent standing at podium speaking to audeince.audience dressed mostly in black United in Kindness t-shirts seated on bleachers listening to speaker.

Mrs. Webster, who was appointed to the role of assistant superintendent in July, mentioned that while she is excited about the opportunities that changes to the district’s leadership team present, she pointed to one factor that has remained a constant throughout.

“One thing that hasn’t changed is Dr. Stevens’s commitment to you and to our students,” she told educators and staff. “Dr. Stevens has chosen the theme of kindness this year. Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness creates a sense of belonging.”

Teachers, staff dressed in United in Kindness t-shirts gather in center of gymnasium floor in the formation of a W.As Dr. Stevens wrapped up his first official welcome back message, he extended an invitation to teachers and staff to join in the community-wide Welcome Back Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 1-4 p.m. at Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School and this final reminder:

“As you think ahead to this new school year, I encourage you to make it different, make it memorable, make it fun,” he said.