NRHS stadium filled Thursday morning for RSS pep rally

Spencer, NC (WBTV) - It hasn't been the easiest summer for teachers with concerns over their pay raise, tight local budgets, and even job cuts, but with the start of school for students just a couple days away, many systems in our area are getting ready for the big day.

In Rowan-Salisbury Schools every teacher and staff member in the system packed a high school football stadium for a huge pep rally.

It was the biggest pep rally this school system has ever seen…more than 3200 teachers and staff from every school filled the football stadium at North Rowan.

"Some of our students there today made the comment that it was just so much fun to see the teachers so fired up about the school year starting," said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.   "A big part of today was to focus on our new strategic plan.  We're focused on literacy in that for the coming year, so we wanted them to have an opportunity to talk about that."

Dr. Moody had the idea for the pep rally.  Prizes were given out, and there were honors, like that of principal of the year going to Nancy Barkemeyer of West Rowan Middle School.

"It's really an honor to be recognized by your colleagues," Barkemeyer told WBTV, adding that she was totally shocked when her name was called.

There were also cheerleaders, mascots, a band, and several elected officials on hand.

Custodian Dennis Beaver won the use of a new 2014 Honda for a year.  The car was donated by Gerry Wood Honda, and Emily Shue was the lucky winner of a diamond ring worth nearly $6000 from Debbie Barnhardt Jewelers of Spencer.

Moody pointed out that the number and value of prizes awarded showed that local businesses and the community were behind the school system and showing support.

But behind the celebration there was also concern.

Teachers have been in the news a lot lately, usually about their paychecks and tight budgets. 79 positions were eliminated in Rowan-Salisbury on Friday, and other systems have had to make similar decisions.

"We have been kicked around, there's no doubt about it, and when people tell me how upset they are, I understand, I completely understand, but we always come back to we're not in this to please anybody in the General Assembly, I work for the kids in this building and the families that entrust their children with us," Barkemeyer added.   "That is who we are.  None of us went into that, went into this field, thinking we would become wealthy, but we all went into this thinking we would have the respect of the community and the families that trust us with their children, and we have that."

Emily Shue was fixing up the media center today at West Rowan Middle School,  with help from her husband.

"This is one of the areas where budget does get hit often hard, you just have to think about all the things you can do for the students and the difference you can make in their lives daily," Shue told WBTV.  "It really is just about the kids."

And that's what this pep rally was about…getting motivated to teach and reach students when they come to class on Monday.

"We've had a lot of issues with accountability, budgets, legislation, things that can bring morale down.  We wanted to just focus on our primary purpose," Moody added.  "That's a place where our kids discover and achieve the extraordinary."