New Beginnings and Nostalgia at 2023 Convocation

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August 16, 2023 by HCDE Communications

A sea of neon, costumed characters and Madonna look-alikes strutted through the Kingdom Builders Center on August 11 to officially usher in the 2023-2024 school year at Harris County Department of Education’s annual Convocation. This year’s theme, “I Want My HCDE,” was a throwback to a popular 80s MTV ad campaign. For many, the event was a chance to reunite with colleagues, catch up on summer experiences, and celebrate the start of the new school year while showcasing their best 80s threads.

Click here to view Convocation photo gallery.

Click here to view Service Awards photo gallery.

As HCDE staff entered the venue, they were met with hallmarks of the decade: arcade games personally selected by Superintendent James Colbert Jr., old-school jams, and a video montage featuring 80s photos of their colleagues.

For veteran employees, Convocation is a time to streamline goals for the ensuing year.

“I love the 80s theme! I was a young lady in the 80s, so it’s nostalgic,” said Center for Educator Success (CES) Recruitment Manager Dr. Chaney Ledet. “I’m looking forward to new beginnings this year. I want everyone to move the organization forward.”

Officer of Elementary Education Jeremy Davis, a first-time Convocation attendee, explained his experience was about familiarizing himself with HCDE’s culture.

“I’m surprised at the high engagement,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see how invested everyone is in participating.”

Colbert, a fan of one of the channel’s first music video programs called “Yo! MTV Raps,” donned his best tracksuit and Adidas sneakers, Gazelle glasses, and Cuban link chain to welcome HCDE’s nearly 1,000 employees to Convocation.

“This is what we do every year. We come together as a family, and we make it happen,” said Colbert as he addressed the crowd. “This year will be unlike any year we’ve ever had.”

Supt. Colbert embraces IT help desk analyst Monica Garcia who was recognized for her 40 years of service to HCDE at Convocation.

Team HCDE was a captive audience throughout the entirety of the event. Staff cheered on directors who took the stage to accept trophies for their division’s best 80s outfits. They also cheered on more than 170 colleagues receiving awards for their many years of service to the Department. One special service award was given to IT help desk analyst Monica Garcia, who was met with a standing ovation as she was recognized for 40 years of dedication to HCDE.

Colbert then focused on the Department’s dynamic strategy as he highlighted achievements over the past year and the goals for 2023-2024.

“The goal is not so much to make our footprint bigger, longer, or wider, but deeper,” said Colbert. “We do that by taking the things that we do, and we do them better instead of doing 20 things on an average level. Let’s do eight things exceptionally well for which we’re known throughout the country.”

Among the presentation’s highlights, Colbert drew attention to the various state-of-the-art facilities completed in 2023 with the support of the HCDE Board of Trustees. He also emphasized the demand for HCDE’s services by highlighting the increase in contracts secured with school districts by the Special Schools and instructional divisions.

True to HCDE’s value of being a standard-bearer in everything it does, Colbert also announced significant pay increases for eligible employees. “Bam! Seven percent raises this year!” exclaimed Colbert as attendees cheered.

“We’re doing a 7% increase. We were already ahead of all the school districts in the county. My goal is that they’ll never catch us. When you’re sitting, we’re standing. When you’re walking, we’re running. We’ve been the highest-paying district in the county for about the past six years for teachers, and we aim to do that with everything. Y’all deserve the best.”

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