Long Reach High School’s auditorium was electric Friday afternoon.

And that’s not because of the Columbia high school’s mascot The Lightning, but because it was the kickoff event to start the school year.

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Teachers and staff danced their way into the auditorium with noisemakers, beaded necklaces, school flags, balloons and more.

For the past two years, Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has held kickoff events at the 12 county high schools. Staff from the high schools’ feeder schools, meaning the middle and elementary schools whose students will eventually attend the specific high school, also are invited.

All Howard County public schools open Sept. 3.

Long Reach High filled its auditorium with staff from Thomas Viaduct Middle, Mayfield Woods Middle, Bushy Park Elementary, Deep Run Elementary and Ducketts Lane Elementary.

Each kickoff is a pep rally for the various school’s teachers and staff. They enjoyed performances from the Long Reach drumline, marching band and color guard.

At Long Reach, teachers were dancing to “Cha-Cha Slide,” “Cupid Shuffle” and “Wobble Baby.” Martirano joined in the dance line for “Wobble Baby,” but quickly said “I’m done,” with a laugh.

After the dance party, Allison Alston, the student member of the Board of Education, gave opening remarks.

In her speech, she compared the science behind light and how teachers need to be the guiding light for students; she received a standing ovation from the teachers and staff in attendance.

After Allison spoke, Martirano addressed the crowd and talked about the school system’s mission for equity for all, supporting students, removing barriers, practicing empathy and to empower one another as well as students.

Long Reach Principal Josh Wasilewski — named Howard County Principal of the Year for 2019 — said he is excited for the new school year.

Wasilewski, who has been Long Reach’s principal for four years, started his Howard career as a health teacher at Mayfield Woods in 2001, one of Long Reach’s feeder schools.

“The yearly kickoff reminds [teachers and staff] why we do what we do,” including leading with equity and doing right by students, Wasilewski said.

Beth Weith, a Long Reach ninth-grade English teacher, was dressed head to toe in purple, the high school’s color. She was wearing a purple tie-dye shirt, purple sneakers, big purple sunglasses and even had balloons.

“I have the best job in the world,” Weith said. “The staff and administration is full of life, light and love for our students and for each other.”

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When asked what she’s looking forward to most for the school year, Weith said, “Those babies walking through the door; I can’t wait.”

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