New Superintendent Addresses Entire Staff for First Time

Hutchings+giving+his+speech.+Hutchings%27+convocation+speech+was+based+on+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.%27s+%27I+Have+a+Dream%27+speech.
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New Superintendent Addresses Entire Staff for First Time

Hutchings giving his speech. Hutchings' convocation speech was based on Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Hutchings giving his speech. Hutchings' convocation speech was based on Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Hutchings giving his speech. Hutchings' convocation speech was based on Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Hutchings giving his speech. Hutchings' convocation speech was based on Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

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After being greeted by the high school marching band, students holding signs, and new Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., the Shaker Heights City School District staff took their seats in the high school’s Large Auditorium.

About one minute before the program started, Hutchings was confident about his soon to be delivered speech. “I’m really excited and ready to get started. I’ve been waiting for this day and it’s finally here, so it’s really exciting,” he said.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Jen Huyan, Chinese teacher at Woodbury and the middle school, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by senior Brian Harris. Senior Conor Matthews and an incoming Boulevard kindergartner introduced Hutchings, whom the crowd welcomed with a standing ovation.

After recognizing his wife, Cheryl, two children, Micah (8) and Gregory III (3), Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken, board of education members and city council members, Hutchings gave teachers some words of encouragement.

“I hope that today you all felt valued. The purpose of having a convocation is starting off the year with a bang,” Hutchings said. “Having you all come here, you’re fired up, you’re excited, encouraged and motivated, is the way I hope you all will remain throughout the year.”

Hutchings then took a moment to discuss the new state report card to be released later in the morning. Predicting a wide range of scores in the different categories for each school, he said, “That’s just one source.”

The first-year superintendent repeated his often-stated prediction that the school district could close the achievement gap. “If anyone in this country is going to do it, it’s going to be us,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings’ introductory remarks lasted about eight minutes, at which point he changed focus to his “I have a dream for Shaker Heights” speech. Hutchings repeated what he told The Shakerite earlier this week, saying he was inspired to write a speech similar to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech when he learned the civil rights leader spoke at a Shaker Heights church in 1965.

“I have a dream that Shaker Heights City Schools will provide a world-class education where all students, regardless of their neighborhood, race, socio-economic status, or life experience, achieve at high levels and grow academically every day,” Hutchings started, reading off his iPad.

Referencing changes in state law concerning teacher evaluation, Hutchings said, “I have a dream that we will embrace the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System as a means for growing professionally as educators rather than a burden or a ‘gotcha’ technique to punish teachers.”

The “dream” speech lasted about four minutes. Hutchings then introduced the surprise guest speaker, his kindergarten teacher, Dorothy Murphy McKenzie. He explained that she inspired him as a child when she told him he could be the first African-American president. Previously, Hutchings included a letter of recommendation from McKenzie in his application for the superintendent post.

The focus of McKenzie’s eight-minute speech was that “being an educator, you can change lives.” She encouraged teachers to always be positive with students, telling a story from her childhood of a teacher showing compassion and flexibility to a student whose mother had died. “She chose to see him as a child whose life had been disrupted, not as a disruptive student,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie, openly proud of having taught Hutchings, concluded her speech with, “I look forward to hearing great things from Shaker Heights.”

Of Hutchings’ speech, Lynne Shields, intervention specialist at the middle school, said “I thought it culminated everything. I like his dream. I think we all have the same dream and to put that out there and have it as a common vision was very effective.”

Boulevard Principal Colleen Longo said, “I thought Dr. Hutchings’ speech was a perfect 10. It was inspirational, it really sent the message that we’re all in this together.”

Afterwards, Hutchings was pleased with how the speech went. “It went very well. I think it went better than expected. I thought it was going to go well, but I think it went extremely well. Teachers are very enthusiastic, and fired up and excited about the new year, and that was the purpose.”

Read Print Editor in Chief Shane McKeon’s story about the “Super Bowl” atmosphere of the convocation and see photos here.

Below, read Hutchings’ speech in its entirety.

I have a dream that Shaker Heights City Schools will provide a world-class education where all students, regardless of their neighborhood, race, socio-economic status, or life experience achieve at high levels and grow academically every day.

I have a dream that our community will continue to advocate for and support our schools to ensure that every young person has the skills needed to contribute to our global society.

I have a dream that each of you will recall the sense of purpose that motivated you to get into education…knowing that we are imperfect as human beings but determined to do whatever it takes to help every child succeed.

I have a dream that all 5,500 students including my own two children will be able to graduate from Shaker High School ready for college and careers.

I have a dream that our students enter a safe learning environment each day where all support staff are caring and nurturing and genuinely want the BEST for our young people.

I have a dream that the Shaker Schools continue to maintain a professional and collaborative relationship with all three of our collective bargaining groups while keeping the best interest of our young people at the forefront.

I have a dream that the Shaker Heights City Schools will be transparent, clear, and timely with the community to keep them informed of our efforts to become a 21st century school district that keeps students first.

I have a dream that we will embrace the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System as a means for growing professionally as educators rather than a burden or a “gotcha” technique to punish teachers.

I have a dream that we support teachers and provide them with professional learning opportunities to better serve our young people.

I have a dream that we will provide opportunities for Shaker staff to collaborate and communicate about student, school, and district data to provide a more robust educational experience for our young people.

I have a dream that our buildings and grounds will continue to look impeccable, making it clear to all visitors that our custodial and maintenance staff has put love, care, and pride into their work.

I have a dream that our businesses and community leaders will partner with the Shaker Heights City Schools to assist us with providing resources, services, and learning opportunities for our young people.

I have a dream that our students will be picked up on our buses each day by a driver who greets them with a smile and gets them to school safely and on time.

I have a dream that every student feels physically and emotionally safe at school, secure in the knowledge that every adult in this district is invested in their success and well-being.

I have a dream that each of you will leave here today knowing that we can rely on each other for support and advice, and that we must hold ourselves and each other accountable for making a difference in the lives of our students.

Finally, I had a dream to one day become a superintendent of school district with a diverse population in a community that places a high value on education…and now my dream has come true. I’m very grateful to serve the Shaker community and look forward to our journey together.

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