BELTON — Applause rang through the Garth Arena at the Bell County Expo Center on Monday as Belton schools Superintendent Susan Kincannon walked up the stage.
The lights dimmed. Kincannon took her place behind a metal podium that was emblazoned with Belton Independent School District’s apple logo and framed by red lights.
The crowd quieted. Kincannon leaned into the microphone and said, “Welcome back to school.”
Monday marked Kincannon’s last time addressing about 1,850 staff members as Belton ISD’s top administrator at the district’s annual convocation event. Last week, Kincannon was named the lone finalist for Waco ISD superintendent.
The idea that this might be the right time to leave Belton ISD came to Kincannon as she and her team worked on the 2019-20 school year’s theme, “Design. Create. Build.” The theme, she said, is meant to continue to build upon the district’s successes by strengthening the work in process and continuing to make strides for students.
“Recently, I came across a profound thought: Once you design something, it changes the future that is possible,” said Kincannon, who has led the district in a period of growth and constructed two middle schools, three elementary schools and a second comprehensive high school scheduled to open in 2020. “In education, we have the opportunity to make a difference for our students and we most definitely have the power to change the future that is possible for children. Of course, it is impossible to predict the future.”
Kincannon’s voice began to quiver with emotion as tears began to well in her eyes.
“As we ended the school year and the summer began, I started thinking that it might be time for me to make a change and redesign my own life,” she said. “After nearly two decades, I’ve decided a change and a new opportunity will allow me to continue to grow — because life and learning is never done. So it’s time for me to write a new chapter in my life, and continue doing the work that I love in a new place.”
Kincannon said it was an honor and a privilege to work as superintendent for the past eight years.
“I’m proud of everything that we have designed, created and built together,” she said to the teachers, administrators and other staff in the arena. “Your passion and ability to work as a team to achieve our goals has truly made a difference.”
Former National Geographic photographer Steve Uzell also spoke during the convocation. He told the hundreds of teachers in the audience that they are more than just staff members.
“What you do here shapes the world,” he said. “Every single one of you never forget that.”
Uzell encouraged Belton ISD to be open to the unexpected.
“You said the open road never fails to open your mind. Once your mind is open and formidable, boundless power is unleashed — it’s called your imagination,” said Belton High School senior Adrianna Schlaefer, who was a finalist for the National Geographic Student Expeditions 2019 Student Photo Contest. “This is such a universal message for all of us here today. It fits so well with the 2019-20 theme of ‘Design. Create. Build.’”
Belton school board President Sue Jordan said it was tough to speak following Kincannon.
“On behalf of the board we want to thank Dr. Kincannon for her decades of service to our district and wish her all the best, and much success in her new role,” Jordan said.
The Waco school board is expected to consider Kincannon’s contract on Aug. 29.
Kincannon used a quote from the Italian poet Michelangelo to sum up her feelings about Belton ISD: “Gazing on beautiful things acts on my soul.”
“What happens in this district is truly beautiful and very inspiring and most definitely acts on my soul,” she said. “Please know that I will be watching, I will be cheering, I’ll be admiring and I will always hold you in the highest regards and keep building for our kids. Love you.”