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Gainesville, Hall County employees get ready for new school year
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Fair Street International Academy Principal William Campbell motions to his team on the second floor of the Gainesville High gymnasium Tuesday morning during a paper airplane flying competition at the Gainesville City Schools pep rally to kick off the new school year.

First day of school

Gainesville City Schools: Aug. 2

Hall County Schools: Aug. 7

Lanier Christian Academy: Aug. 9

Riverside Military Academy: Aug. 21

Lakeview Academy: Aug. 22

Early Tuesday morning, faculty and staff from all eight schools in the Gainesville City School System filled the stands at Gainesville High School to celebrate the beginning of a new school year.

Employees from each school were dressed in matching T-shirts with their school’s name on them. They competed in games in which they passed a hula hoop around in a circle without using their hands, had a paper airplane contest that saw one fly the length of the gym floor, worked to see who could get out of a “knot” of team members the fastest and built structures using spaghetti noodles, tape and marshmallows. A variety of door prizes were given away in drawings, and the employees earned from $100 to $1,000 for their schools based on their standings in the games. Gainesville Exploration Academy won the $1,000 prize.

The school system’s Big Red Rally was an opportunity to bring the schools together and give a visual representation to the district’s “One Gainesville” mantra, according to Superintendent Jeremy Williams.

“We’re a school system where we’re fortunate enough to be able to get all of our staff in one location,” Williams said. “When we continue to preach ‘One Gainesville,’ it’s kind of hard to say that when you never get everybody together. As we start the school year, to have that opportunity to see the solidarity across the schools from kindergarten or pre-K all the way through 12th grade, it’s something that our staff needs to see. A lot of times we can get caught up in the silos of what we do in each school and in each department.”

Williams said Tuesday’s rally gave the employees a chance to focus on teamwork and “just getting that spirit up before we welcome kids (Wednesday).”

Williams said he looked forward to the first day for students today — his first as superintendent — with excitement.

“The first day is always an exciting time not only for the students and their families, but also the staff,” said Williams, who became superintendent July 1. “You get to see the new faces. Everybody just kind of starts out on a clean slate.”

HALL COUNTY SCHOOLS

Nearly four miles away a little later in the morning, more than 3,500 faculty, staff, students and board members gathered at Free Chapel to hear last year’s Hall County Teacher of the Year Laurie Brown led a group of students, former students, teachers and staff sharing what they believe it means that Hall County Schools are striving to be “the most be caring place on Earth” — the school district’s published theme.

“A lot of those students who are coming to us are bringing a lot of baggage with them,” said Brown, a teacher at the World Language Academy. “So I want you to reflect how can your classroom be a safe haven for those kids.”

Chris Cranford, warehouse manager for the school system, said the people employed by the schools live out the theme.

“The reason that I believe that Hall County Schools is the most caring place on Earth is people like you that I come in contact with everyday,” Cranford said. “Not only does Hall County care about the students of Hall County, but they care about their families and their employees.”

Michele Hood, early college coordinator for the district, introduced Diana Clark, a 2017 graduate, who is now a first-generation college student, partially due to the early college program.

“Hall County truly shows it cares about me through the opportunity for early college,” Clark said. “It is not a one-size-fits-all program. Ms. Hood and the faculty and staff are willing to go out of their way to meet students where they are in life. I know, for me personally, it has given me the confidence and new resources to be successful.”

Andrew Hathcock, who earned Star Student honors for Chestatee High School, Hall County and the region when he graduated in 2016, shared how teachers had played an important role in his life.

“In my time as a student here, I had about 40 teachers and I made a list of all 40 of those teachers and I went through them name by name,” said Hathcock, a rising sophomore at Georgia Tech. “I came to the realization that each and every one of them have had a profound impact on my life and have shown me through the quality of their classroom education, the conversations we had outside the classroom and the fact that I still keep in contact with many of them to this day that they cared about me and my future.”

Superintendent Will Schofield praised those who shared in the meeting.

“These individuals truly exemplify who we are and what it means — we’re not there yet — but to strive to be the most caring place on Earth,” he said.

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