Convocation Kicks Off the New School Year

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yong zhaoOn Thurs., Sept. 1, the Montclair Public Schools held its annual Convocation kicking off the 2016-17 school year. Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi opened the program welcoming back the staff. "I'm happy to be in front of you for the second time. When I first came here, I learned quickly that the foundation and the glue that holds this district together is the staff," he said.

"I was very much impressed with how you our staff, under such adversity and with no support, rallied to the cause of educating our children," he continued. "You've done everything I've asked and you've made it work.

As they head into the new year, Bolandi reminded them to "Never forget when you come to work every day that you are doing the best for the children - and you don't do that by listening to the negative. You are the best that Montclair has to offer."

Jessica de Koninck addressed the audience relaying two major points on the Board's agenda during the 2016-17 school year. The first is beginning the search for a Superintendent which will include soliciting input from the community on the job description to help inform the decision making process. The second, is to continue to oppose the proposed charter school in Montclair. A rally will be held on Sept. 14 in the MHS Amphitheater (or Auditorium, pending the weather from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Montclair Education Association President Gayl Shepard gave a spirited speech in her sparkly ruby red Converse, comparing the work of the district to The Wizard of Oz. With references to the various characters of the movie and what each personality contributed, Shepard encouraged staff – teachers and administrators alike to join as one to face the challenges ahead. "We must lock arms. Our goal is to step over fear and into courage. We as a community must stand together.”

Board President Jessica de KoninckThe keynote speaker was Yong Zhao, a Foundations Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. He is also a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, Victoria University in Australia. He previously served as the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he was also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Yong Zhao speaks around the world on educational issues, particularly on issues related to globalization and education, creativity, global competitiveness, educational reforms, and educational technology. His main messages are: Education should focus on developing children's strengths, not "fixing their deficiencies'; Education is much more than the addition of instruction of course content, especially in a number of limited subjects; National standards/standardization have serious negative consequences; What makes a nation, a community strong is diversity of talents and creative citizens; To succeed in the globalized world, we need to cultivate global competences.

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"We like to define people based on what they cannot do, not what they can do,” he said. "Teachers are like life coaches. They have to be more human and know that every child can be above average. Educators need to create opportunities for every individual to survive and thrive in their own ways and enhance their strengths.”

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