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Arlington superintendent welcomes staff back to school

From left, Arlington students Andy Smith, Claire Logan, Emily Ewell, Lindsay Brown and Jared Brown talk about a prominent school memory in front of school staff Sept. 2 at Arlington High School. - Adam Rudnick
From left, Arlington students Andy Smith, Claire Logan, Emily Ewell, Lindsay Brown and Jared Brown talk about a prominent school memory in front of school staff Sept. 2 at Arlington High School.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — After a difficult first year on the job, Arlington Superintendent Kristine McDuffy used the Olympic Games to inspire staff during the district’s annual welcome back ceremony Sept. 2.

“It was my most challenging year in 27 years,” said McDuffy, who took over in July 2008 for former Superintendent Linda Byrnes. “It was more serious for Arlington because we had no cushion to fall back on.”

McDuffy, as well as other district staff, spoke to a packed Arlington High School performing arts center about a week before the district’s first day of school.

McDuffy acknowledged the district’s $3.8 million budget shortfall — as well as its layoffs — to the crowd of staff, students and some parents, but encouraged employees to continue working together.

The district has called back 15 of the 24 certified staff and six of the 26 classified staff that had been laid off last school year, McDuffy said.

The superintendent also told the staff that it will continue aggressively seeking grants and funding sources, and will be closely monitoring enrollment numbers this school year.

School districts receive state funding based on their enrollment and adjust their budgets accordingly.

“We hope that it (enrollment) comes in very strong and we’re anxious to see where that’s at,” McDuffy said.

After McDuffy’s discussed the district’s current state of affairs, students came up on stage to talk about a prominent school memory.

The students wore Olympic-style gold medals as they recounted their stories.

Pioneer Elementary School student Thomas Brown, a fifth-grader, told a short story about how he fell and hit his head and had to go to the nurse.

Arlington High School senior Andy Smith spoke about how he appreciated how teachers would make jokes even though they would often be over students’ heads.

“Keep trucking because you guys make a difference,” he joked.

After a short video about the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C., McDuffy introduced high school wrestling coach Shaun Williams.

Williams competed in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, and spoke about his experience during a national championship match he competed in during college.

During that match, one of Williams’ teammates spit on the wrestling mat after a loss. The act cost the wrestling team a point and more importantly a national championship because his team ended up tying for first place.

“There’s a difference between a group of individuals working together and a team,” Williams told the audience.

Other district staff also gave brief presentations.

Diane Kirchner-Scott, the district’s director of teaching and learning, spoke about how staff have done a good job improving student achievement.

Sid Logan, executive director of operations, also gave kudos to the emergency preparedness and energy efficiencies within the district.

The morning culminated with presenters passing around a battery powered torch.

“(Last year) there definitely was a grief process — it was anger, depression and then acceptance for me,” McDuffy said. “There are tough roads ahead, but we’re going to be taking this path together.”

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