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District Celebrates Ubuntu to Open the 2022-23 School Year

Staff Opening Day 2022 dance
The District celebrated the return of staff at its annual Opening Day celebration on August 15. More than 500 staff members, contractors and district partners attended a special ceremony at University High School followed by a barbecue lunch and an afternoon of fun wellness activities – including the Wobble dance. 

On Monday, August 22, The School District of University City welcomed 2,550 students back into its school buildings for the 2022-23 school year. Always a joyful day, students at the high school walked the traditional red carpet to the front steps of the high school, cheered on by  parents, alumni and staff. Just a few minutes away, students at the middle school were also greeted by staff and alumni with cheers and balloons to mark their first day. Students in preschool and elementary school each had their own warm welcomes after enjoying evening ice cream or popsicle socials the prior week.

The first day of classes marked the culmination of a summer of activities designed to prepare students, staff, teachers and parents for an awesome school year ahead.

On August 15, the District welcomed back its entire staff during its annual Opening Day celebration. 

The theme was Ubuntu, an African Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are.” 

As all of the staff came together for the first time in several months, the spirit of Ubuntu was powerful because the District’s shared community had so actively helped one another after severe flooding devastated parts of University City in late July. 

In the aftermath, staff and our partners reached out to one another and to our many University City students, families and caregivers to ensure everyone was cared for and no one went hungry, or went without proper shoes, clothing or personal items. Individual pain was also the community’s pain, and in the spirit of Ubuntu, the U. City community rallied to heal. 

On staff opening day, there were hugs and tears and a profound sense of gratitude among all members of staff to reconnect as a full community. Amy Hunter, UCHS Class of ’88 and the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Calares, gave a rousing keynote on the impact of teachers on students with a personal story about excelling in math. Afterward, everyone, from teachers and bus drivers to custodians and principals, enjoyed an outdoor barbecue. Then they celebrated wellness and joy by participating together in about 20 different fun activities from line dancing to walking with llamas. 

Staff wore black and gold Ubuntu T-shirts with an African proverb that read, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

“University City truly has a powerful identity because it is a resilient, caring and active community,” said Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley. “I can’t think of a better phrase to embody that spirit.”

“If you want to go fast, go alone;
but if you want to go far, go together.”

African proverb in the spirit of Ubuntu

Ubuntu also shined at the District’s Back to School Rally and National Night Out celebration outside Jackson Park Elementary School on August 2. The devastating storms the week before did not stop hundreds of students, families, caregivers, first responders, residents, volunteers and staff from joining in a joyful community celebration of wellness and school readiness. Youngsters chased cascades of bubbles from The Bubble Bus, ran and climbed on the playground, and enjoyed Icee pops, hot dogs and free soda donated by Fitz’s. Adults visited with more than 30 community partners to learn about local resources. University City High School Golden Girls taught dance moves to children and adults. The community spirit was palpable as the District staff, city staff and first responders hugged and thanked one another for their teamwork and support during the flooding.

The warmth and power of Ubuntu continued through the month of August. Kindergartners in all four elementary schools attended a three-day Jump Start to Kindergarten orientation to meet their teachers and peers, learn the ropes of riding the bus, tour the school and more. At Brittany Woods Middle School, students and parents visited with teachers at an evening open house the Friday before the first day of school. Students met their teachers, received their schedules, found their classrooms and were personally greeted by new Principal Justin Davis. Davis has been busy introducing his new sixth- through eighth-graders to the Four C’s of the Brittany Woods community: Commit, Communicate, Collaborate, Create.

The District is ready for an outstanding year. In the spirit of Ubuntu, equity, student voice, restorative justice and well-being remain critical parts of the District’s vision of Learning Reimagined. The District is grateful to the entire University City community and its support of all children in our classrooms. Indeed, if we want to go far, we go together.

New Staff 2022

New staff gathered for a full week of welcomes, special orientation activities and professional development. On their first day, the group gathered in a large circle, introduced themselves and checked in with one word on how they were feeling. The words included inspired, excited, validated, ready and energized.