Day Two of the second annual School Summit on Climate & Culture opened with the following tidbit that hints at its impact: On Day One alone, attendees posted nearly 1,200 tweets on Twitter that reached more than 1.8 million followers.
Jake Troja is the DMPS Director of School Climate Transformation and promoter of this educational Woodstock. He shared that mini-index of the range of SSCC II in the ballroom at the Iowa Events Center where 2,000 educators reconvened for the second half of a star-studded, sold-out springboard into the 2017-18 school year.
The summit is a professional development extravaganza with six primary focuses:
- Best Practices in Improving School Climate
- Multi-Tiered System of Supports
- Cultural Proficiency
- Social, Emotional and Physical Health
- Stakeholder Engagement
Nobody knows better than Troja how much planning goes into a conference of this magnitude. But in addition to a meticulously premeditated agenda, the dynamics of SSCC also feature real-time input from the registrants. The culminating session on Tuesday afternoon was a panel discussion among presenters moderated by DMPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart and fueled by audience participation.
“Keep sending us your feedback and questions for the panel,” Troja reminded the crowd packed into the ballroom. “We are counting on you to help us improve.”
Then he introduced the Harding Breakerz, a middle school dance troupe with an appearance at the White House on its resume and just one of the student groups sprinkled throughout the event schedule as entertaining examples of talent blossoming in the conducive climate of DMPS.
The Breakerz brought the crowd to its feet with an energetic performance that was like an interpretation of the mood in the hall and segued to the morning keynoter, Principal Kefele.
Baruti Kafele honed his extraordinary skills as a motivational speaker when he was a principal in New Jersey and delivered daily convocations first thing every morning to his assembled students and staff. In four years, a high school officially labeled as low-performing when he arrived became one recognized as among America’s best. Much is heard in educational circles about the “achievement gap.” Kafele’s focus is what he calls the “attitude gap.” And he knows how to plug it!
He began by showering kudos on the Breakerz. Within a few minutes he was unbuttoning his coat and shifting into high gear. By the time he finished the audience was standing again, this time to LOUDLY repeat after him: “I AM THE #1 DETERMINANT OF THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF MY STUDENTS!”
“Are you passionate about your craft?” he asked. “How else will students become passionate about learning?”
The answer was a thundering herd of educators, fanning out from the ballroom for another day packed with collaborative workshops and breakout sessions, like kids excited to get new school clothes and anxious to break them in.
Somewhere in a corner of the vastness of Hy-Vee Hall Troja was probably on the phone trying to land another headliner for next year.
The visibility from this summit is so far-reaching, you can already see SSCC III, clear across the new school year that looms later this month: August 13-14, 2018.