By Curt Yeomans
Corrective Superintendent John Thompson is planning to put several school system employees in the spotlight during two pep rallies for Clayton County teachers in August.
Two e-mails sent July 18, and July 21 detail Thompson's plan to establish a 100-member choir. The e-mails call for Clayton County faculty and staff members to lend their voices in song.
The e-mails also said the new choir will perform on Aug. 1 and 4, during two back-to-school rallies the school system will hold for employees at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. The rallies also will feature employees who can dance, and play orchestral instruments, according to the July 21 e-mail. The employees who sign up for the entertainment will meet with Thompson on Thursday at the Performing Arts Center.
"The intent was just to have something nice for the teachers as they came back for the new school year," said district spokesman Charles White. "It is just an opportunity to see some people singing."
The school system held a back-to-school rally for teachers last year at the Performing Arts Center. The rallies typically include a speech from the superintendent, in which goals for the upcoming school year are outlined. Words of encouragement are given, and some form of entertainment is usually included.
During a series of three rallies last year, then-Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan announced the end of direct-instruction programs, and that bonuses would be given to teachers whose schools met Adequate Yearly Progress the previous year. Each rally ended with Duncan calling district officials up to the stage, and everyone dancing.
White said the school system is not going to mandate that any employees participate in the choir for this year's rallies, and those who sing will not be paid. He also said he did not know if the choir would be used again after the rallies.
"We don't even know if we'll have enough people to do it," White said. "This was just a call to see if there was any interest. This may end up being a one-time only thing."
The plan for the choir has been criticized on Internet blogs, however, and some former employees say educators do not need rallies to get ready for the new school year when an accreditation crisis looms over the school system.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has said it will revoke the district's accreditation, if nine mandates for improvement are not met by Sept. 1.
Marla Smith, a former Clayton County teacher who left the district this year because of the accreditation threat, said she received the e-mails because Clayton County school district officials have not yet disabled her school system e-mail account.
Smith said there is no reason to establish a choir to entertain teachers, and "If Dr. Thompson wants someone to get up and do a song and dance, then he can perform a solo."
"Teachers don't need a pep rally to get excited about their job," Smith said. "They are already excited to be starting a new school year... What they want to hear is what the county is doing to get out of this [accreditation] mess."