Dozens of business owners, local politicians and community members turned out Tuesday night in the cafeteria at West Jessamine High School after the simple invitation to come learn more about the school.
The idea for the event came from Marci Smith, the school’s technology coordinator and a math teacher, as she worked toward her principalship certificate.
“In a lot of my classes, they talk about the stakeholders of your community and that as schools, one of our newest big goals is to reach out more to our community and get a lot more people involved in our school,” Smith said. “As I was hearing about all those things in my class, I came to the principals with my idea to have this dinner, and they loved it.”
Smith and Jessica Slaton, the school’s choral director and chair of arts and humanities, are both part of a leadership-development group in the district and took the opportunity to put on the stakeholder event as a leadership project at their own school.
Planning for the event began about three months ago, and Smith and technology assistant Lelia Huffman visited between 150 and 200 businesses to hand-deliver invitations.
Those who braved the rain that was transitioning into snow Tuesday night were welcomed by West students at the door of the building and as they entered the cafeteria. They were offered tours of the newest changes to the building and perused tables of student clubs as the jazz band played live music.
Organizations represented included drama, the bowling teams, FCA, the Colt Nation newspaper, the football team, art, student technology leadership program, choirs, guidance, student senate and Beta Club.
The tennis team served a free meal of barbecue sandwiches, beans and cole slaw, and the school’s show choir, “Dually Noted,” opened up the evening’s presentation with a live performance of “Light” from the rock musical “Next to Normal.”
After dinner, the school’s three assistant principals and principal Ed Jones took turns presenting highlights of West Jessamine High School, from high test scores to state championships in sports to invitations to upcoming drama and music performances.
Slaton said she was impressed with the pride students had in their school and their willingness to help with the event. All high-school juniors across the state took the ACT on Tuesday morning, and Slaton said many of West’s test-takers elected to stay at school and help prepare for the dinner even after their four-hour college-entrance exam.
“A lot of the juniors who could have gone home after the ACT with a parent note stayed and put together the tables,” she said. “It was amazing to see them say, ‘All right, what do you need now, Ms. Slaton? What do you need now, Ms. Smith?’”
Jones said he hoped the event would become an annual tradition for West High.