If there's one thing the Rowan-Salisbury School System isn't lacking, it's spirit, and it showed Thursday at the district's first-ever back-to-school pep rally.
“We cheered and chanted and the big purpose of today was to come together and just celebrate and get excited about a new school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.
The excitement was so contagious that Chairman of the Board of Education Dr. Richard Miller commended the staff on “the enthusiasm, the joy you're bringing to this new school year.”
For the first time on record, all 3,000 Rowan-Salisbury School System Staff members gathered in one place at one time.
Busloads of teachers came pouring into the stadium at North Rowan High School right around 8 a.m. They were chanting and cheering, dressed in school colors and armed with signs, pompoms and props.
Each school participated in a spirit contest. As they entered the stadium, they were judged on their spirit, as judged by the staff's cheers, excitement, props and wardrobe choices.
“We cheered a lot,” Moody said.
Although Salisbury High School won the spirit contest, Moody said each school “did a fabulous job.”
But the pep rally wasn't just for teachers – custodians, administrators, bus drivers and food service workers were invited, too. The crowd nearly filled all the bleachers in the stadium.
Sponsors and school board members made a grand entrance on a trolley, and Moody was escorted into the stadium in the back of a classic sheriff's cruiser to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.”
“We've been working all summer,” Moody said, as she described a number of conferences and professional development programs teachers and staff completed.
“We just want to have one big pep rally today,” she said.
Moody briefly addressed the district's new strategic plan, goals and mission to the crowd, including having 90 percent of students reading on grade level and incorporating problem-based learning with digital conversion in a collaborative environment.
“This is our year,” Moody said.
“I felt like it was inspiring, and I thought it was a great way to boost the morale of the district,” said North Rowan Middle School social studies teacher Jennifer Pantell.
Ledra Welchwalker, a first-grade teacher at Hanford Dole, has been a teacher for 12 years.
“This has been a very positive motivator,” she said.
Not only did Rowan-Salisbury staff celebrate and cheer, local businesses donated a wide variety of door prizes, including a new car for a year, a diamond ring, a classroom makeover, attending a national conference of their choice, catered lunch for a school's staff, a spa day package, tickets to Oprah, gift certificates, a field trip and a fire pit — just to name a few.
“Our community really came out and supported our schools,” Moody said. “We're grateful to be able to work here.”
We wanted to “tell our teachers how much we appreciate them,” she added.