New Superintendent Throws Grand Convocation

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New superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. has organized and will speak at a “celebratory convocation” for all 800 members of the district’s staff; the convocation will also feature a “surprise” guest speaker.

The subject of Hutchings’s speech? “I have a dream for Shaker Heights,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings visited the Shaker Historical Society in July, where he learned that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Shaker Heights’s Heights Christian Church in 1965 and spoke on its front steps.

Inspired, that night Hutchings penned a speech based on King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, infusing it with his dreams for Shaker schools.

Following Hutchings’s speech, there will be a “special guest” keynote speaker, whom Hutchings would not identify by name. However, Hutchings did mention that “her” speech will last “six to eight minutes.”

“I wanted [the staff] to feel like they’re going to the Super Bowl,” Hutchings said.

According to an email sent to all Shaker staff, on the morning of Aug. 22 all 800 district employees will ride, by school bus, from their respective schools to the high school.

In addition to the more than 400 members of the high school marching band playing, “The PTO council has gotten parents and students to volunteer to make signs and to come out and just cheer on the teachers as they arrive on our school buses,” Hutchings said. The staff will then enter the large auditorium for the rest of the convocation.

Following the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, the convocation will feature a welcoming remarks and a “two to three minute” speech by Hutchings.

Hutchings will use the speech to answer questions “everyone in the community continuously ask” such as “what do you want for Shaker?” and “what do you believe in?”

Hutchings said the speech would not be limited to one issue. “It’s going to be a wide range of things,” Hutchings said. “It’s really my core beliefs. . . It’s a holistic approach to what I think about Shaker schools and what I dream for Shaker schools.”

Despite the speech being Hutchings’s first impression to many staff members, he is surprisingly relaxed about it. “I don’t think I’m nervous at all, I’m more so excited for it,” Hutchings said. “I’m passionate about education,” and becoming superintendent was “a dream come true for me.” Accordingly, Hutchings said the convocation will be more of “a celebration.”

English teacher Valerie Doersen hopes for a “tone of respect” from the new superintendent. “I need to hear that he knows that my colleagues and I are accomplished professionals who can be trusted to do our jobs,” Doersen wrote in an email interview. “I’m not even sure what a Super Bowl atmosphere would be like. I feel like in the last couple of years, teachers have become so tired, disillusioned, strung-out, and generally overworked that the idea seems kind of far-fetched.”

The email estimates that teachers will return to their buildings around 10:30 a.m.

Hutchings’s style of leadership has been a significant departure from his predecessor Dr. Mark Freeman’s more muted, introverted style. According to Hutchings, his extroverted approach is not going away. “This is just my personality,” Hutchings said. “I’m just always over-the-top. . . I believe in being out and open and transparent.”

As such, Hutchings says the annual convocation is here to stay.

While Hutchings said he didn’t have any lucky bowtie for such a speech, he did say that his bowtie will have the shade “186 red” in it (perhaps something like the one seen here?).

Campus and City Editor John Vodrey contributed reporting for this article.

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