Jack Robey Junior High School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Bash on Thursday evening and welcomed a large crowd of students and their parents to the lawn at the southeast corner of the school.
Attendees enjoyed games and food under sunny skies coupled with pleasant temperatures that made it feel more like early October than mid-August.
“The turnout today is phenomenal,” Robey principal Jerry Bell said. “I wasn’t expecting the number of parents that we’ve had but it is great. I believe that we’re finally turning the corner on the public perception of this school. We are all about academics at Jack Robey.”
Bell said he and his staff are ready for the new school year.
“We are passionate about what we are doing,” Bell said. “We are compassionate with our students and their parents about their home situation. We are also competent in our skills as educators.”
Michael Turley is a math instructor at Robey.
“As instructors we are very excited about the new school year,” Turley said. “The spirit of camaraderie and enthusiasm in Pine Bluff is the best I’ve seen it in the five years I’ve been here. The student population is getting bigger with an increase in the number of eighth-graders.”
Kari Sylvia is entering her first year as a teacher at Robey.
“I’ll be teaching eighth-grade science this year,” Sylvia said. “I taught fifth-grade science in Stuttgart the past four years. Today’s event has been so positive. It brings the community and the school together and shows parents that teachers can relate to their situation. Teachers have been in the same place that these parents have been. Most of us have children of our own.”
Henry Dabner is a member of the Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors.
“I think this is great for the kids because it gets them in a good mood for school,” Dabner said. “All of our schools have done a good job of welcoming their students.”
Robin Stepps organized the Bash.
“I was a teacher for 32 years and came from Little Rock to Pine Bluff where I taught before I retired,” Stepps said. “I wanted to continue to do what I could so I volunteered to help put this together. I am proud of how this turned out. The parents and the students are enjoying it.”
Stepps said the Pine Bluff Police Department, the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department and a number of local churches assisted with the back-to-school bash.
“We have had good cooperation from the whole community,” Stepps said. “It’s working.”
Students and parents
Before the event, students and their parents attended a two hour orientation session where class schedules were handed out.
“The orientation session was both educational and informational and the kids are having fun now,” parent Ruby DeShazier said. “My child is an eighth-grader and this whole event is a great way for the kids to start the year.”
Sonja James said the same sort of event should be held more than once per school year.
“My daughter is in the eighth grade and I think that today’s event has been really exciting and should be held more often because it keeps the morale of the students up,” James said. “They all seem like they are having a great time.”
Dawn Lane also has a daughter entering the eighth grade at Robey.
“I think this is great,” Lane said. “The kids needed a chance to get together before school starts, especially the eighth-graders who are coming here for the first time. This way they can get introduced to each other in an informal atmosphere.”
Shanee Hulsey is beginning the ninth grade.
“I think that this is going to be a good year,” Hulsey said. “I will be working on my grades.”
Eriya Evans is an entering eighth-grader.
“I’m new to this school and so far I like it,” Evans said.