The staff of the Knoxville School District participated in a luncheon and a briefing regarding expectations for the coming school year on Thursday.
Following a luncheon, provided by Hy-Vee and sponsored by Iowa State Savings Bank, staff proceeded into the Knoxville Performing Arts Center.
The district is welcoming 35 new staff members. There are approximately 270 school district employees in total.
One of the new employees, Superintendent Cassi Murra, led the assembly.
"This is just going to be an incredible year," Murra said. To illustrate her view of the district's need to work as a team, she played a humorous video with the theme.
"We do more than travel in a group," Murra said. "We are a family." That family includes the community around the school district.
The new staff members were called to the stage by building, with each building principal introducing his or her new staff members. Murra stressed that, regardless of the building a Knoxville student attends, every student should be learning and getting the most out of every day at school.
In Murra's view, the current condition of the district includes a strong, caring and experienced staff, in addition to the new employees. She believes that a great opportunity is created when the fresh ideas and energy of the new staff members gels with those of the experienced staff. Knoxville is also fortunate to have a great deal of pride in the school district, community support, stable finances and well-maintained facilities.
But there is always room for improvement.
Murra encouraged everyone to do what they can to improve student achievement and make every student feel welcome. Smiling, even during tough times, was encouraged.
Among her goals for the year are to have all third grade students proficient, have all twelfth grade students graduate and encourage a sense of community, with the skills to go with it, to make students want to stay in Knoxville and contribute to its future.
The formula for calculating a school district's graduation rate includes taking the names of every freshman, on the first day of school in ninth grade, then looking at how many of them graduated four years later - regardless of the school district. This formula puts Knoxville's graduation rate at 84 percent.
Murra encouraged the staff to dress professionally and keep their classrooms in good order. She believes that people are their most productive when not surrounded by clutter or chaos.
"We want our work environment to be professional," she said.
The district also has a renewed focus on technology, and staff members are encouraged to check email often. An electronic newsletter will also be sent out monthly, and each building will be required to contribute.
"It's our job to promote ourselves and let people know what we're doing," Murra said. She encourages transparency throughout the district.
In closing, Murra said she hopes that all of the staff members do what they can to make the 2014-15 school year an outstanding one.