Annual conference, professional development readies district for students'' return


Each year, administrators at Petal School District select a theme to rally around throughout the school year.

For 2017-18, Petal faculty, staff and students will hear the words “Prepared, Inspired, Empowered” repeatedly. Those words make up the theme that will encourage the district to grow, which is what Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon hopes for every year.

“Our district is all about people,” Dillon said. “First we’re about people, students and growth. We want our teachers to grow. We want our administrators to grow and our students. To get better each and every day.”

In preparation to reach those goals and to lead the charge as the date for students to return approaches, Dillon and other administrators for the district took to Biloxi this past week to attend the annual Superintendents’ Conference.

“The annual conference is put on in the summer each year so that it doesn’t take away from school year,” Dillon said. “It is available to other administrators as well.”

The week was centered on professional development opportunities and updates from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“This conference allows us to pick up best practices from other districts,” Dillon said. “A lot of times, it affirms what we are already doing at Petal School District, but we also are able to take away some things that we can learn from and apply as well.”

Dillon said the most beneficial part of the annual conference is usually the networking that happens when he is able to get in the same room as other superintendents and discuss issues that affect all school districts.

“We are able to build relationships, so that we have people we can turn to and talk to throughout the year,” Dillon said. “Networking with fellow administrators is very important to us.”

Sessions were available to those in attendance throughout the day on a variety of topics. Dillon said he spent much of his time in the Mississippi Department of Education sessions, focusing on updates for the coming school years.

“I spent a lot of time in MDE sessions with updates on anything from graduation options to teacher licensing and other things that will be put into place this coming year and some the following year,” he said.

Dillon said testing information was also discussed.

One of the most memorable speakers the Petal group heard from was the keynote speaker.

“There was a powerful keynote speaker, who talked about when you’re in the field of education you want to be on someone’s list,” Dillon said.

So, if a student was asked, who has made a difference in his or her life, the student would respond with that person’s name.

“It means, you want to be one someone’s list as making a difference in their lives,” Dillon said. “I thought that was very powerful. It resonated with our group that was able to attend.”

Registration for the 2017-18 school year kicked off this week, which Dillon said has the Petal School District faculty and staff excited for another year.

“We are very excited about another school year,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces as they come by, gets us excited knowing school is around the corner.”

Opening convocation will be held on Aug. 1, with four days of professional development following. The school year will kick off on Monday, Aug. 7, with staggered starts across the district.

“We are looking forward to welcoming back teachers and some new faces,” he said. “We know they will make a difference in their respective departments.”

“It is a special time of year for educators as we look forward to another school year,” Dillon said. “It is important to me that we do those four days of professional development in the summer before the school year starts so that we are ready to hit the ground running.”