Last summer, more than 3,000 teachers and staff attended the Keller school district's lighthearted, game-show themed employee convocation at a local church. One of the questions was: "How much is the district's budget deficit?"
This year's convocation -- a ceremonial assembly of the school district staff -- is considerably simpler, since the answer to that question kept on growing.
Keller will be hosting a "virtual convocation" this year, as will the Fort Worth and Arlington districts, to save both staff time and money.
"Yes, we are scaling back," said Shellie Johnson, Keller communication director. "We never spent much in terms of budget, but we did spend a lot of staff time" on the convocation. The 2010 event cost $4,400, including rental of the church.
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This year, Keller Superintendent James Veitenheimer will broadcast a keynote address live to all campuses, and staff members will discuss it using two guiding questions.
"We will have a few very short videos of our kids relating to our core documents, motto, mission, vision and values," Johnson said. "But no, no big themed show."
The Arlington district saved $12,000 by calling off its onsite convocation, held in recent years at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie for the district's 6,000-plus teachers.
"We made our decision to do this back in March," said Amy Casas, district communications director. "A lot of our staff members were in favor of it, and it was also one of the suggestions of our citizens advisory committee."
Arlington Superintendent Jerry McCullough videotaped a 20-minute address last week to teachers and staff, outlining the district's vision for the upcoming school year along with its challenges.
Individual campuses will show the taped message to staff at any time this week that it is convenient.
Though the Fort Worth district will save $29,000 this year by skipping a big convocation, Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby instead stressed the need to put preparation for the coming academic year ahead of a celebration.
"I heard from many of you that you would like to have an additional day before school starts to work at your campuses," Dansby said in a message to staff. "For that reason I have decided that we will not hold a districtwide convocation this year."
Instead, a video message from Dansby and board President Ray Dickerson will be sent to all campuses Tuesday, and principals may use their discretion on when to show it to staff during the day.
Last year's convocation, which included separate sessions for elementary and secondary teachers, included New York University professor Pedro Noguera as keynote speaker.
Not everyone is giving up on the live convocation tradition. Other districts, including Crowley, Aledo, Everman, Birdville, Grapevine-Colleyville, Mansfield and Carroll, will all continue to have face-to-face convocations to begin their school years.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657