- Falmouth Public Schools
Convocation 2023: Clippers Chart the Course for a New Year
By Sarah E. Murphy
Superintendent of Falmouth Public Schools Lori S. Duerr donned a different hat for Convocation 2023 - talk show host.
The week before students returned to school, FPS teachers and staff gathered in the Falmouth High School auditorium, after catching up in the lobby over coffee and apple cider donuts provided by Jack in the Beanstalk.
Under the direction of FPS Video Teacher Ryan Webber, Dr. Duerr presented the Clipper Morning Show, with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sonia Tellier as co-host. The focus was to celebrate the 2023-2024 school year and the professional achievements of the teachers, administration, and staff whose contributions illustrate the district’s mission - a community committed to excellence, for every student, every day.
Dr. Duerr welcomed the crowd of educators by reciting a monologue, sprinkled with anecdotes and humor, while offering her respect and gratitude for their commitment. She also gave credit to the FPS custodial staff, which spent the summer working to prepare the district’s eight buildings for the new school year.
The morning began with a wave of maroon, as the Falmouth High School Marching Band and Color Guard entered the auditorium and took command, with new band leader Casey Snyder at the helm. Lawrence School student Reginay Hewitt led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and FHS Senior Merritt Willcox performed the National Anthem during a respectful silence, punctuated by thunderous applause.
Enthusiastic cheers rang out when the curtain came up and the lights came on to reveal the show’s surprise house band, Puffy Elvis, who kicked off their set with their version of “Dancin in the Streets.” Known for their contagious covers of rock favorites from the 1960s and beyond, the band features the musical and vocal talent of current and former FPS teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and alumni guest performers.
Dr. Duerr welcomed other special guests to the show, including familiar faces from FPS, both past and present, such as former Mullen-Hall Principal Nancy Ashworth, School Committee Chair Melissa Keefe, Secretary to the Superintendent Sharon Reid, and former Superintendent of Schools Robert V. Antonucci, whose appearance prompted a greeting from his daughter, Morse Pond School Math Education Specialist, Karen Karson. The program also featured the district’s seven principals: Rose Moran, Mullen-Hall Elementary; Sandy Kapsambelis, Teaticket Elementary; Kelty Kelley, East Falmouth Elementary; Rebecca Vieira, North Falmouth Elementary; Tim Adams, Morse Pond School; Tom Bushy, Lawrence School; and Dr. Alan Harris, Falmouth High School.
Henry St. Julien, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, joined Dr. Duerr and interviewed a panel of students from across the district, including Landon Young, Anny Pinheiro, Evan Hoffman, Lukas Bushy, and Ruthie Chapman about their views on what it means to be a Clipper and the importance of fostering a sense of belonging for all students.
The morning concluded with a keynote address by professional speaker, award-winning professional educator, and best-selling author, Steve Maguire. Mr. Maguire, who has taught science electives such as meteorology, astronomy, oceanography, and ornithology at Scituate High School since 1996, is known for using candor and wit, with both his students and audiences.
North Falmouth Library/Media Teacher Kristin Bergeron appreciated the energy of this year’s Convocation, in addition to Mr. Maguire’s message.
“What a great start to the new year. A lot of effort was put into this day, and I felt like it really set the tone for the upcoming year: to take chances, try something new, and to have fun,” she said.
Falmouth High School Business Teacher/Internship Coordinator Janet Rocha also enjoyed the format for the event.
“This was my sixteenth year at Convocation, and it held my attention like no other. It was creative, interesting, and entertaining, and Puffy Elvis was a huge bonus,” she said.
Additionally, she could relate to Mr. Maguire’s perspective.
“He was the real deal. He gets what it's like to be a teacher because he is a teacher. He said things that resonated with everybody, judging by the excitement in the room. He talked about the realities of teaching, but he had a really funny, interesting spin,” she said.
“We’re all here because we’re very kid-focused, and as teachers, we come in with all these ambitions, but there are a lot of challenges that we face that people don’t talk about.”
Cristin Petisca has been a first grade teacher at Mullen-Hall since 1994. Mr. Maguire’s honesty was not only refreshing but validating.
“He was so real and he spoke to us as a peer. He shared a lot about himself, which you can tell is how he relates to his students, and he got us all really jazzed up. But he also talked about some of the issues that are part of teaching,” she said.
“Everything was so relatable and made sense in my world as an educator.”
For her, the event encapsulated the past, present, and future of Falmouth Public Schools.
“The energy was amazing. It seemed like we were all really connected, and it was nice to have the chance to see Dr. Duerr in a different light. She was funny and down-to-earth but she was able to relay a message that was important. She also addressed some things we’ve been talking about across the board,” Mrs. Petisca said.
“It wasn’t ‘at’ you, it was ‘with’ you. I felt heard.”