WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho convocation, part pep rally and part awards ceremony, took place Friday in the middle school auditorium. The annual gathering, which takes place on the Friday before students return to school, welcomes teachers, administrators and staff members with a single message: There is only one first day of school. Make it the best it can be so students can’t wait to return for Day 2.
Despite his continuing recovery from brain surgery earlier this summer, Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci made a special effort to fill his usual role of master of ceremonies.
“It is incredibly important to me to be able to do this today,” he said.
School Committee members in attendance were Vice Chair Ryan Callahan, Ronald Areglado, Catherine Giusti, Craig Louzon and Donna Chambers.
“It’s great to be here for the opening convocation and to start the school year off,” Chambers said. “It’s particularly great that Barry’s joining us for this.”
Giusti added, “Opening convocation is always important, but especially so this year, to welcome back Mr. Ricci and start the year off strong.”
When he walked to the podium, Ricci was welcomed with a sustained and heartfelt standing ovation. Touched by the show of support, he was nevertheless quick to recover with a story about his time in the hospital, where he met a certified nursing assistant who turned out to be a Chariho Middle School parent.
“At about 2 a.m., I called the CNA for assistance to use the bathroom,” he said. “Standing in the bathroom with me, the CNA said ‘You look familiar. Don’t you make the announcements at Chariho? Aren’t you the superintendent?’”
Ricci acknowledged employees who were retiring, welcomed 25 new hires, and recognized the four Chariho schools that had received “commended” rankings in 2018 from the Rhode Island Department of Education.
He also presented two awards: Catherine Sparks was named Teacher of the Year for 2019 and the Educational Support Professional of the Year is Doureen Tourville.
Before the event concluded with a slide presentation of special moments from the last school year, Ricci had a final message.
“Don’t ever underestimate the impact that you have on the lives of our students and on the lives of your colleagues,” he said. “The magnitude of your influence and the extent of your power is immense, beyond measure.”
Elementary Spanish teachers Dori Carpenter and Lois Gendreau agreed that the convocation was an uplifting way to start the school year.
“It’s nice to get everyone together,” Carpenter said. “It’s nice to see all of the awards that people received and that the district has received.”
Gendreau said she enjoyed seeing her colleagues after the summer break.
“It’s good to see everybody and get together and get started on the new year,” she said.