It was billed as a “convocation,” but “pep rally” might have been a better descriptor.

There was spontaneous -- and loud -- cheering for favorite teams (schools) or coaches (educators).

There were banners.

There was heart-pumping music, provided by the Kettle Run High School Jazz Band.

There were inspirational speeches by the school division’s leader, David Jeck, Ph.D.

Attendees were even in uniform (matching T-shirts according to school).

The only piece missing? The students.

But make no mistake. The pep rally was all about them.

The parking lots at Kettle Run High School on Monday, Aug. 12, were full and the overflow -- lines of cars along the road – proved that the whole school division was gathering together to celebrate the beginning of the school year.

Teachers and staff dressed in team T-shirts formed pockets of color as they reconnected after two and a half months apart. 

When Raymond Crowell, Fauquier County Public Schools 2019 Teacher of the Year got up to speak, his audience quieted and leaned forward. They were all in.

The Marshall Middle School health and physical education teacher was a good opener. Charming and resplendent in an outfit he said he’d spent months perfecting, he warmed up the crowd for Lauren Brill, president of the Fauquier Education Association and for Jeck, who touched on some serious subjects. Like school shootings. 

He said Sheriff Bob Mosier had told him that he had looked each of the school resource officers in the eye and asked them, “Would you be willing to give up your life for a student?”

They all said, “Yes.”

Jeck said that every school but one has an armed SRO.

Jeck talked about advocacy for education, remembering when a large contingent of teachers and parents converged on Virginia’s capitol last year to ask legislators to support teacher salaries. “Our day in Richmond last year was the most significant day of my career. And Fauquier – far and away – was the most represented school district.”

He recalled when students advocated for themselves. When some students wanted to walk out of school to protest the threat of gun violence, Jeck said he was proud to support them. 

He talked about mental health, relating that more than 500 teachers have been trained in mental health first aid. “And more will be trained this year.”

Throughout, Jeck talked about the difference a single teacher can make in a child’s life: “These kids need you.”

Suzanne Sloane, chairman of the Fauquier County School Board (Scott District), focused her remarks on the concept of “one degree better.” Water, at 211 degrees, she said, is just hot water, but add just one degree and water becomes steam, strong enough to power a train.

She challenged each teacher, administrator and staff member to be “one degree better,” so they could encourage their students to do the same.

School starts Wednesday, Aug. 14. Those who were missing from the pep rally/convocation will show up with backpacks and new pencils, nervous and excited for the new school year. Their cheerleaders – minus the pompoms – will be waiting for them.

Reach Robin Earl at rearl@fauquier.com

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