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Some school districts will not hold convocations

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ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, August 18, 2017

The superintendent of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools has opted not to hold a back-to-school convocation for schools staff this year.

ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner told the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education at its regular meeting last month that he had decided not to hold a convocation this year in order to give teachers more time for planning.

Cartner reiterated that point when asked this week about his decision.

"I made the decision not to have a convocation in order to allow teachers to have time in their classroom," Cartner said.

Cartner said he had not received any requests from teachers not to hold a convocation this year.

"It is simply something I knew I could do to provide more time for teachers," Cartner said.

There also will be no convocation this year in the Camden County Schools. Travis Twiford, interim superintendent of the Camden schools, offered a similar rationale for not having a convocation in Camden.

"There will be no convocation this year,” Twiford said in a statement released by the school district. “The superintendent and central office staff are meeting with the faculty at each school during their opening faculty meetings. This gives teachers more time to prepare their rooms, study test data, and prepare instructional materials. It also provides more time for cross-categorical planning in their instructional teams as well as vertical planning."

Other school districts, however, are continuing their tradition of holding a back-to-school convocation for staff.

The Edenton-Chowan Schools will hold its annual back to school convocation for staff from 9 a.m. to noon Monday in the Family Life Center at Edenton United Methodist Church. This year's theme is: "Dream It. Believe it. Achieve it."

Edenton-Chowan Superintendent Rob Jackson said he is excited the guest speaker will be Michael Bonner, the Pitt County teacher who received national recognition on the "Ellen" show. Jackson noted Bonner completed his student teaching in the Edenton-Chowan district.

Jackson, who said he thinks convocation is a wonderful event, explained that his introduction to the practice came when he arrived in Edenton three and a half years ago. Before that, he said, he had always worked in large schools that didn't really have a place big enough to bring all the staff together at one time, and he had never attended convocation as a staff member.

"What I discovered about convocation is that I absolutely love it," Jackson said.

Convocation is the one opportunity during the year to bring all staff members together in one place "to reaffirm our commitment to our children and our parents and our community," Jackson said.

The event is adjusted every year based on feedback, he said. A couple of years ago it was shortened from a full day to a half day, he said.

Jackson said he understands the concern about teachers' time. "We do recognize that teachers need as much time in their classrooms as possible and we try to honor that," he said.

But Edenton-Chowan teachers "overwhelmingly" have said they want to continue convocation, he said.

The Currituck County Schools will hold a back-to-school convocation on Monday at 12:30 p.m. at Currrituck Middle School. Currituck Superintendent Mark Stefanik said the theme will be welcoming staff back and introducing new staff members.

Stefanik said there has not been any discussion in Currituck about whether to continue convocation. He said the general meeting only lasts about an hour, after which teachers go to planning meetings for the rest of the day.

While Stefanik didn’t express any view on whether convocation is a good use of the teachers' time, he noted convocation had been an opening activity in Currituck for as long as he could remember.

ECPPS’ Cartner said he’s not trying to end the practice of holding convocations altogether. In fact, he’s thinking of holding a convocation once every three years or so, he said.

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