WOOD RIVER JCT.— Five hundred Chariho faculty and staff members were welcomed to the start of a new school year in the middle school auditorium on Friday for the district’s annual opening convocation. The convocation was dedicated to the memory of Sylvia Overend, a fifth grade teacher at Chariho Middle School who died last spring.

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci greeted everyone back to work. He acknowledged the changes in his appearance with the addition of a brain tumor prevention device, but said that it has not stopped him from striving for success. 

“A lot has changed in the past year, and what hasn’t changed is that we know what works,” he said. “You and I both know it’s about establishing a culture of high expectations for ourselves and our students — and providing a system of data-driven and timely support when students struggle, and most importantly, delivering expert instruction as the primary component of a rigorous and relevant curriculum.”

Ricci presented awards to two staff members. Teaching assistant Ellen Hoxie was named the 2019 Educational Support Professional of the Year, and elementary school teacher Tami Neill was named the 2019 Educator of the Year. 

Ricci also acknowledged employees who have retired and welcomed more than 40 new employees to the district. He recognized three Chariho schools that earned 4- or 5-star ratings from the Rhode Island Department of Education and acknowledged Chariho High School’s No. 6 rank in the U.S. News & World Report list of the best high schools in Rhode Island.

The audience was also treated to a presentation of photographs from the previous school year, and Ricci told the teachers that the upcoming school year was an opportunity for them to continue to make a positive impact on their students. 

“Don’t ever underestimate the impact that you have on the lives of our students,” he said. “The magnitude of your influence and its long-term impact is immense, beyond measure.”

He added, “And remember that there is only one first day of school. Go into it knowing of your power to change and build lives. Go into it in such a way that your students will want to return for more, for the next 179 days, because of your smiles, because of your greeting, because of your warm expression of caring and kindness.”

Ricci said he hoped that teachers would be inspired to continue the work that the district has set out to do in providing a quality education to all of its students. 

“I hope the teachers become excited as I do about the first day of school, that they celebrate their colleagues who have achieved some really phenomenal things, that they recognize that the work that we’re doing is really good work, and take some joy in that.”

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