Morrilton gets school year started in a unique way

by Sonja J. Keith

Morrilton High school students and faculty started the new school year off in a unique way on Monday morning.

“We don’t start school like anyone else in Arkansas,” said principal Danny Ketcherside.

Students filed into the school auditorium for a pep-rally style assembly. When the curtains were pulled back, the Morrilton Devil Dog Band filled the stage, playing an upbeat selection of numbers. The school mascot, Duchess, was also in attendance, wearing a school shirt and horns.

The Morrilton High school mascot, Duchess, attended Monday’s assembly.

A video produced by EAST Lab students followed, which featured students with teachers and staff secretly dancing behind them. A humorous skit was also presented that outlined dress code rules.

A 2004 graduate of Morrilton High, Tina Fletcher also spoke at the assembly. She has studied abroad, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and has interned with Sen. Blanche Lincoln and first lady Michelle Obama. She encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. “It all started right here,” she said. “It’s all right here.”

After a presentation on the student council, the room darkened and loud music began to play as students threw school T-shirts, stadium cushions, candy and other items into the crowd and principal Danny Ketcherside and new assistant principal Kent Chambers rode on to the stage on a motorcycle. Chamber previously served as the dean of students and coach for the football and track teams before going into administration full time.

Students responded with cheers, applause and smiles.

“We’re going to work hard this year but we’re going to play hard too,” Ketcherside said.

The principal addressed each class of students – from seniors to freshmen. He said there were 138 seniors attending Morrilton High. “We’re going to graduate every member of the senior class,” he said, adding that if anyone talked of dropping out to get a GED that he and the assistant principal would be making a personal visit to that student’s home. “A diploma counts,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough year but a good year and you’re going to graduate, even if it kills you.”

On Monday, Ketcherside ended the assembly by getting his head and facial hair shaved. He said he was looking for something different to do this year and the idea came to him when he noticed on Facebook that 2013 graduate Akeem Kemp had started barber school. “I thought what the heck. It seemed like the thing to do.”

According to Ketcherside, this year’s assembly was similar to last year’s. The event has grown in interest, with parents, school board members and other community leaders in attendance.

“This has turned in to a monster,” Ketcherside said, adding that the event is designed to get things off on a positive note. He said he feels “awesome” about the new school year, adding that he is blessed to be associated with such great students, faculty and staff.