The first day of school may be Aug. 1, but Tullahoma City Schools kicked off the 2019-2020 school year on Thursday, July 25.

The annual TCS convocation saw the district’s nearly 500 employees come together inside Tullahoma High School to celebrate the beginning of a new school year and motivate everyone to find their “why.”

This was Director of Schools John Carver’s first convocation with the TCS team. Because he took over at the helm of TCS from longtime superintendent Dan Lawson in November, he had yet to experience the beginning of school the Tullahoma way.

The change in leadership also saw a change in the format of the annual event. In years past, convocation was mostly held inside the Tullahoma High School auditorium; this year, the event looked more like a traditional high school pep rally in the gymnasium.

All the employees enjoyed a free breakfast catered by the TCS Nutrition Department before assembling in the gym to the sounds of the Tullahoma High School Marching Band’s pep tunes.

After a short welcome from THS Principal Kathy Rose, Carver took the mic to welcome his faculty and staff to the commencement of their new year.

Carver likened his first convocation to family reunions he’d attended in the past, citing the matching shirts worn by all employees.

For those reunions, he told the crowd, everyone wore matching shirts and enjoyed some live music.

By giving all the employees matching shirts to wear to convocation and bringing the THS Band out for a short performance of pep tunes, he hoped he created a similar atmosphere.

Carver also had his first shot at introducing all the new administrative hires to their teams for the year. He introduced each building principal as well as members of his central office team, including Director of Curriculum and Instruction Susan Fanning and Chief Operations Office Jason Ray.

In keeping with the spirit of motivation, Carver also spoke about each member of the TCS family finding their “why” – the reason they all chose the profession they did.

Each member of the TCS team had the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives, he said, and those opportunities will have lasting effects on the future.

He shared a story of a former student of his who worked to receive his Ph.D. This student, Carver said, worked for his Ph.D. simply because he was told he wouldn’t be able to.

His hope for everyone this year, Carver said, was to be a positive force for each of the children they encounter in their classrooms and hallways.

“Find what makes them tick,” he told his staff.

He then brought down members of the leadership team to lead by example: he asked them to do the wave.

The leadership team would do their own wave first before the entire group would do one giant wave, Carver said.

Though they faltered once, the leadership team pulled off an enthusiastic wave.

Carver then highlighted the mistake, saying it was all right to make it.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” he told his employees. If they weren’t afraid to make mistakes and keep moving forward, they would be able to teach their students that failing is A-OK.

“Don’t be so caught up that you don’t hear the music,” he said. “The music is watching that lightbulb go off. That music is watching that kid succeed.”

Another continued tradition during convocation was the selection of a Tullahoma Teacher of the Year to receive a brand new car to drive for the school year, sponsored by Stan McNabb Automotive Group.

This year’s car winner was THS English teacher Charlie Hickerson. He will spend this school year operating a 2019 Chevrolet Traverse, according to Trent McNabb.

After concluding the pep session, all 500-plus Tullahoma City Schools employees – teachers, principals, custodians, maintenance staff, technology staff and more – formed a giant “T” on the football field inside Wilkins Stadium to display team unity.

Led by Band Director Justin Scott and members of the THS Band leadership team, all the employees were led onto the football field and placed in formation.

Digital arts teachers Michael Holiday and Leanne McCullough then captured a video and some photos of the T using a drone.

The image was shared to the TCS Facebook page once the convocation concluded.

“We are TULLAHOMA CITY SCHOOLS,” the post reads. “500 teachers and support staff who are ready to #ThinkLeadServe!”

The first day of school for Tullahoma students will be Thursday, Aug. 1.

Erin McCullough may be reached at

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