Staff workshop emphasizes excellence and doing "whatever it takes"

“Be the Change: Whatever it Takes.”

That was the key message conveyed at a recent professional development workshop to start off the New Year.  About 160 administrators, teachers, aides, support staff and others gathered in the Southwest Campus cafeteria Jan. 5, donning new, blue T-shirts to emphasize the theme.

The bottom line: Doing what's best for the district's more than 1,600 students.

Teamwork and collaboration took center stage. “You can disagree in a positive way,” said Dr. Margaret Stroud, Varnett’s interim superintendent.  “There are two things I don’t want to hear: ‘no’ and ‘but.’” Dr. Stroud urged the participants to each come up with a word that reflects Varnett’s core values. Dozens of words were mentioned in the beginning, but the staff whittled them down to five: excellence, respect, discipline, progress and diverse. Dr. Stroud indicated those words will be included in a new 2015-16 mission statement that will be more concise than the current one. “Every human being should be treated with some degree of decency,” Dr. Stroud said. “If I see you yelling at a child, I’m going to tell you ‘this is wrong.’"

The workshop, which took place the day before students returned from their winter break, came at a time when crucial tests await Varnett students. The tests are the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for 3rd through 5th graders and the Stanford test for kindergarten through 2nd graders. The key areas for improvement include math, reading and science.

The staff also worked on a team-building exercise involving a box of straws and a roll of masking tape. The goal for each group was the build the tallest straw and tape tower. In a lesson in cost efficiency, each straw would cost the team $5,000 each and each piece of tape would cost $10,000. The overall lesson was to have a full understanding of teamwork, development, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Dr. Stroud listed a number of strengths employed by the district, including increasing the number of certified teachers, new technology resources, an overall abundance of resources and a new academic officer.

“We are all role players and we have to carry out our role to the fullest,” Dr. Stroud said.

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