The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ta Da as fanfare to call attention to something remarkable.
The 2018-2019 Desert Sands Unified School District Convocation was nothing short of remarkable. From the venue of The Show to the student talent to the keynote speakers, the morning was truly perfection.
It has been a number of years since DSUSD held a convocation. To go back to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, convocation is designed as the ceremonial assembly of an educational institution. That is just what Tuesday, Aug. 21 was all about—a celebration of the 2,700-plus individuals who put children first.
Two sessions were held to better differentiate focus topics, and to better accommodate the large number of guests. (Desert Sands Unified School District is one of the largest employers in the desert). Each session began with the melodic tones of father and daughter duo Michael and Quinn Keeth. Quinn is a fifth grader at DSUSD’s Ronald Reagan Elementary School. Next came the premier of Not So Undercover Sup: Transportation edition. Then followed the Pledge of Allegiance with John Glenn Middle School seventh grader leading at the first session and Quinn coming back to the stage for the second session. The National Anthem brought tears to many eyes as 2017 McCallum Theater Open Call winner Javier Trivio, and George Washington Charter Elementary School teacher, sang the National Anthem.
Aiden Herrera returned to the stage to sing “A Million Dreams” from the movie The Greatest Showman. Sharing the stage was the Shadow Hills High School Dance Team as they immediately went from one song to “The Greatest Showman.”
A pumped up audience was more than willing to cheer as Superintendent Scott Bailey listed off a lengthy compilation of the 2017-2018 “Points of DSUSD Pride.”
At the first session he was joined by President Debra Canero, CSEA (California School Employees Association, Chapter 106). At the second DSTA President Trina Gonzalez Alesi assisted with the kudos (Desert Sands Teachers Association). Ask any DSUSD employee about the red noses that some of them sport and they will tell you that, in keeping with “The Greatest Showman” theme, the clown noses could later be turned in for a $25 gift card to any Kaiser Group restaurant. Ta da.
Then the sessions took a different path. For the over 1,150 members of the DSUSD classified staff that meant that Joel Zeff, keynote speaker took to the stage. Not long into his humorous and thought-provoking, and very interactive, presentation found him lifting his arms into the air, asking the audience to join him in a resounding “Ta Da” because, after all, don’t we all deserve one?
Using members of the audience he used humor to spread the word that work should be fun. Using information from his books, including The Ta Da of Fun: Seven Secrets to Creating a Fun Culture, Happy Employees, and Business Success. Zeff brought the audience from laughter to tears and back again as he inspired them to be better, to be the best. In the days since the convocation, DSUSD staff members can be seen around the valley doing Ta Da and Bunny Bunny Bunny as a secret code to teamwork, pride, and enthusiasm.
The second session brought over 1,600 teachers, counselors, and administrators into The Show. The keynote speaker for this portion of the morning was George Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset.” Members of the DSUSD leadership team had used this book as a guide throughout the past school year.
Couros reminded the educators that teaching is taking place in today’s world. It isn’t about the test; it is about the children and how they learn. Tweeting as he spoke, he reminded the audience that today’s student lives with technology. He showed clips from today’s world and yesterday’s life along with how things have changed and how they haven’t. A commuter train filled with people in business suits reading newspapers is not so very different from our current use of electronic devices. He shared stories that made the audience cry and some that generated belly laughs.His message echoed Superintendent Bailey’s mantra that we need to teach students the way they want to learn, not necessarily the way we were taught.
At the end of the morning it was clear that the goal of the convocation had been met. A rejuvenated staff took the messages of Zeff and Couros to heart and the way they think may never be the same. A ta da moment.
Staff reflections include:
Roger Isabell, reprographics specialist, “His (Joel Zeff) interaction with us was incomparable and his message was so uplifting. I walked away feeling the energy in the room that he created.”
Taffeta Hunter, administrative assistant, fiscal services, “The entire morning was great but I really like the new graphic developed to remind us of the district’s goals. It is clear and easy to understand.”
Wendy Jonathan, vice president, DSUSD school board, “My favorite quote from the day was from George Couros, who said ‘make the positive so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.”
Monica Mcllroy, office technician, George Washington Charter Elementary School, “Having gone through the DSUSD school system as a student (PDHS class of ’93) and now to be working for a school I attended over 30 years ago, the convocation was a great way to gather all the people that make the school district golden. It was a great way to “Rally the Troops” and set the tone for the new school year.
Deborah Dolan, teacher, Palm Desert Charter Middle School, “George Couros was hilarious! He made me laugh, he made me cry, but most of all he encouraged me to think about how we can improve our students’ school experience.”
Derrick Lawson, principal, Indio High School, tweeted that his favorite quote was from George Couros, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.”
Stacy Provenzano, teacher, Amelia Earhart Elementary School, also tweeted her favorite thought for the day, “The concept of being a school teacher and not a classroom teacher is so powerful for all students.”
Marcy Herrera, assistant principal, Indio High School, joined the tweeters and remembered, “Social media is like water. You can either let us drown or teach us to swim.”
Desert Sands Unified School District would very much like to thank the sponsors of the 2018-2019 Convocation: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Attorneys Atkinson, Andelson, Lyoa, Ruud and Romo; Attorneys Dannis, Woliver, Kelley; Attorneys Best, Best and Krieger; and Kaiser Restaurant Group and Eric Morcus.