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Rousing start to the school year in Evans
Breakfast gathering offers inspiration
W Claxton web
Evans County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joy Collins welcomes the staff back for the 2010-11 school year. Looking on are, left to right, Claxton High Principal Dr. Daryl Finneran, Claxton Middle Principal Diane Holland and Claxton Elementary Principal Marty Todd. - photo by CRYSTAL WALKER/Staff

       CLAXTON - The Claxton High School cafeteria resembled a tent revival Monday morning as the Rev. Dr. L. Perry McNeal engaged Evans County Schools System employees with encouraging words and light-hearted anecdotes.
      Teachers, administrators and other staff members welcomed Dr. McNeal and other guests as they reunited during a system-wide breakfast meeting to gear up for the 2010-11 school year.
      After three days of pre-planning for teachers, students return for the start of school Thursday.
Following an introduction from Superintendent Dr. Joy Collins, McNeal, pastor of Jerusalem Missionary Baptist and Historic Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Churches in Claxton, took the podium.
      As a former educator himself, McNeal expressed an understanding of the responsibilities at hand as teachers prepare for the new year.
      He called teachers "shapers, molders, and handlers of our Lord's most precious gifts-our children" as he invited teachers to believe in themselves and their expertise, rather than concentrating on the obstacles that stand in their way.
      Acknowledging the education system as sitting on the "rim of uncertainty," he said that some teachers will give up and wonder if it's worth the struggle, but "a dedicated person will persevere."
      McNeal closed by challenging teachers to be passionate about the work they do and to be a person who "make(s) things happen" rather than one who "watches things happen" or "wonders what happened."
      Following McNeal, health department representative Cindy Hart addressed teachers to remind them of the need to keep students and families healthy throughout the year. She commended them for having only 225 students sent home sick last year, which she described as an amazing statistic.
      "We were fortunate this year to be able to control our H1N1 pandemic," she said, "and we do not foresee a pandemic this year."
      She said that the H1N1 vaccine will be combined with the regular influenza vaccine this year.
      Also speaking were Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) representative Rev. Clarence Williams and elementary teacher Rachelle Swindell, representing the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).