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Jeff Dezort/Staff

Jasper School District teachers met Wednesday morning as part of the annual in-service training prior to the start of the new school year which begins Tuesday, Aug. 13. As part of exercises staff members were asked to come up with this year's district-wide mission statement.

JASPER — Teachers and administrators from across the Jasper School District gathered at the cafetorium on the Jasper campus last week in an annual ritual geared to get everyone on the same page toward reaching goals set for a new school year.

This year is marked by the arrival of several new teachers and administrators or transfers of staff members into new positions.

Superintendent Jeff Cantrell opened the Wednesday morning meeting by introducing new administrators and then turned the meeting over to each school principal to introduce new members of their teaching staffs. Jasper High School principal Jeff Lewis and Oark School principal Brian Cossey were joined by Seth Villines, Kingston School, and Kim Liggett, Jasper Elementary School principals. Dr. Candra Brasel is the new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and the school district's federal programs coordinator is Todd Parker, former Jasper High School counselor.

Cantrell commended the school district staff for its hard work last school year which resulted in marked improvement in reading scores.

"Every one of you did a great job. We are definitely a district on the move. We showed a lot of growth last year," he said.

Cantrell pointed out that Oark Elementary is the number one school in the state for reading readiness and growth, and Jasper Elementary is the number two school in the state for reading readiness and growth. Jasper School District as a whole is ranked fourth in reading readiness growth. Jasper third graders have the number one reading scores in the whole educational cooperative area. He said there are a lot of scores that haven't been sorted through yet to show where the district's schools fall statewide.

Jasper High School with its flexible scheduling was selected to present at the Arkansas Department of Education Summit this summer and will be presenting at the School of Innovation Summit later this fall. "That's quite an honor." He continued to read off a list of positive achievements resulting in schools improving in rankings in a variety of areas.

He said those numbers don't show where the school district wants to be, but that is excellent growth. "I'd like to see that growth be exceeded this year. I think we have the policies, procedures and the people in place to do that."

Continuing, he said, "Good can be the enemy of great. We can't settle for just being good. We can't do too much for our kids. We have to continue to be better, and that's what we are going to do."

In order to achieve, Cantrell said everyone has to work smarter. "I can't ask you to give me any more time. You already give me all the time you've got. There's enough brain power in this room to figure out how to get better."

The superintendent urged everyone to work together as implied by the school district's motto of one school district, one team, one mission. What is needed is a determination of what the mission is, he said.

Brasel then took over explaining the mission statement should be "our mission." She then led the staff members on an activity to come up with a simple statement to that effect. "Some of you have been here a long time and you know what this district stands for in our community. That's what we are looking for."

Using the letters O, N and E the staff worked in groups to come up with a simple mission statement. One phrase that came out of multiple groups was Opportunity Never Ends. It and others were put on display and staff members voted during their noon break on the mission statement they liked best. "Opportunity Never Ends" was the winner.

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