BELTON — Killeen Independent School District educators laughed and cried and danced in the aisles during a powerful presentation of inspiring words, song and dance to start a new school year.

About 6,300 Killeen ISD employees celebrated together at a convocation gathering Wednesday at the Bell County Expo Center, featuring a parade of students and staff and a motivational speaker’s “real talk” about focusing on relationships.

In a humorous, scripted introduction, Superintendent John Craft welcomed employees, noting that he chose to forgo wearing red, white and blue spandex, opting to focus on “the real superheroes.”

With Killeen ISD staff members seated with their campus or department colleagues in color-specific T-shirts, the convocation began with a parade of student spirit groups representing each of the four high schools.

Throughout the event, with KISD-TV providing audio and video support, a choir of combined district staff and students entertained, as well as the high school dance teams and portions of the bands.

Motivational speaker Adolph Brown, a psychologist and university professor, entered the arena in “thug attire,” changing throughout his high-energy presentation into professional attire and finally into a graduation cap and gown.

Through an inspiring call to action, Brown thanked public school educators for recognizing the “tree is in the seed,” explaining his own violent childhood, turned around through the firm, caring hand of teachers.

Along the way, he urged Killeen ISD educators to “stay out of the basement” of mediocre teaching and to dwell in the balcony, forgiving quickly and accepting students and colleagues regardless of differences.

With five days before the first day of school, Brown told educators to consider the “four F’s” — to bring the fun, to be fair to all, to be firm and to have faith in students, colleagues and the school district.

Interspersed through the program of music, dance, video and words of encouragement, Clifton Park Elementary School fifth-grader Kanoa McFadden appeared on video getting ready for school and eventually took the stage with the speaker.

“It was very exciting,” McFadden said following the convocation. “I was amazed at how much work people put into this. It made me feel special.”

Growing up without a father in a family with no high school graduates, Brown said it was caring teachers who vaulted him to success. He earned a doctorate at age 26. The speaker brought McFadden to the stage and put the cap and gown on the fifth-grader, noting that the garment was “one size fits all.”

“Believe in each other and believe in this district,” Brown said, urging teachers to remember the impact students have on the future.

Details of this year’s convocation, a revived Killeen ISD tradition, were kept mostly a secret and several district employees said the new version was a welcomed surprise. “Amazing, the best ever,” said Reeces Creek Principal Michelle Taylor, echoing many leaving the arena at the end of the event.

“It was amazing,” agreed Patrice Robinson, a first-year assistant principal at Reeces Creek. “I think it establishes a back-to-school spirit. The atmosphere was amazing. I think our relationships will build with staff and students.”

Craft praised employee groups, including the bus drivers, monitors and mechanics transporting 12,000 students daily, school nutrition staff preparing 50,000 meals a day, and custodial and grounds staff caring for 6.2 million square feet of space and 1,250 acres.

He went on to praise the paraprofessionals, assistants and aides and the 3,000 teachers “who significantly impact and forge the lives and the futures of our 43,000 students.”

“It’s not what I expected,” said Fernando Hernandez, Killeen High School math teacher. “It was surprising and very motivating. It makes us want to get out of summer mode. It gets us ready to teach.”

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