Cars covered with colorful banners and balloons lined up to participate in the district’s annual Welcome Back event this week, which took on a different format from previous years due to COVID-19 precautions.
Each car held an HISD principal and was decorated to represent their respective campus. District leadership, including HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan, danced to the music played by the DJ on site.
“This is the kickoff to the 2020-2021 school year, the Year of Flexibility,” Lathan said. “We are excited to receive over 210,000 students back to HISD. My goal is for all HISD students to be within reach and able to obtain a quality education.”
The three-day event began on Monday with a drive-in celebration for first-year principals and principals new to the district. Lockhart Elementary School Principal Cameshia Emerson said the event was a nice opportunity to become better prepared for the virtual start to the school year, learn more about the tools available, and to connect with peers.
“All first-year principals were hired virtually, so that was the first time many of us saw each other in person,” Emerson said.
The drive-in was followed by car parades for returning principals on Monday and Tuesday. Fondren Middle School Principal Tiffany Narcisse said she enjoyed seeing district leaders take a moment to have a good time.
“This Welcome Back event showed a sense of unity, collaboration, and celebration of where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Narcisse said. “We’re in uncharted waters now, but there’s nothing we can’t overcome with teamwork and support from central office. We’re looking forward to an exciting 2020-2021 school year.”
Welcome Back concluded on Wednesday with a virtual live event and virtual breakout sessions. The superintendent recognized HISD’s 29 first-year principals and welcomed those who are new to the district.
Keynote speaker and nationally recognized educator and author Robert Jackson, a former pro football player for the Minnesota Vikings, shared a message on his “No More Excuses” teaching approach and discussed strategies for leading students during a pandemic. All principals received a copy of his book, Becoming the Educator They Need.
“I cannot wait to see all the students’ faces, even if it’s behind a computer screen,” Emerson said, noting that she’s working hard to connect with parents and teachers virtually. “We’re putting students at the center of every decision we make.”