VALDOSTA -- Dorothy and her friends' journey through the land of Oz was the theme for Lowndes County school system's convocation Wednesday morning.

After a few opening remarks, 2003's Teacher of the Year, Sharon Dickert, a sixth-grade teacher at Lowndes Middle School, told the audience about her experiences as teacher of the year and meeting other teachers across the state. She then gave the lessons she felt all educators should know -- show the students that educators care about the students, see the students' potential and see what they can achieve and see that students want to be a success.

"Just like in the game show, 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,' everyone needs a lifeline," Dickert said. "I challenge you to be your students' lifeline."

Superintendent Dr. Steve Smith then gave his convocation speech. Smith's favorite movie as a child was "The Wizard of Oz," and the movie, plus the book "The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability," by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig R. Hickman, inspired his speech.

Smith said that America had become a society of "fingerpointers," and Lowndes County schools should prevent that with teaching accountability.

"You either manage culture, or it manages you," he said. "Let's work above the line, not below it, and take charge."

From The Wizard of Oz and "The Oz Principle," Smith took the theme of Dorothy's need for vision to get home, the Scarecrow's want for a brain, the Lion's wish for courage and the Tin Man's wish for a heart and explained that each learned they had the power to change their lives through a willingness to accept responsibility, which lead to individual accountability.

Smith's four main points came from the book. Each point, Smith said, would better education and further work on House Bill 1187 and No Child Left Behind.

YOU MUST SEE THINGS HOW THEY REALLY ARE. "The classroom," Smith said, "Is not just your classroom. It belongs to you, the students, the parents and the community. Once you see that and know it, a partnership can begin."

YOU MUST OWN IT. "You must be committed to both personal and team goals," he said.

YOU MUST SOLVE IT. "Failure is not an option," he said. "We must look at our goals and be focused on the results we wish to achieve."

JUST DO IT. "This is a capstone for the first three steps," he said. "Just do it. Make good things happen. Achieve the goals."

Smith then told educators he was excited about the new school year and was looking forward to working with everyone in the school system.

The keynote speaker at the convocation was Sylvia Hooker, from the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, who took on the Oz theme, and got the educators to their feet with "Ease On Down The Road," from the musical, "The Wiz."

Hooker told the educators that leadership, accountability and teamwork were the things that made education and dreams work.

"It's (education) not just a head thing, but a heart thing," Hooker said, as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" played in the background. "You come into this job for three reasons -- the personal success, the emotional success and the societal success. You have to lead with the heart of the lion."

Hooker then wished all of the educators good luck for the year.

In his closing remarks, Smith asked the educators to remember the most important question in education.

"Always remember we only have one question -- what is in the best interest of the children?" he said. "I am very proud to be a part of this school system."



To contact reporter Michelle Taylor, please call 229-244-3400, ext. 245.

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