All-staff gathering kicks off 2022-23 school year

Dr. Clay Cook delivers the keynote address at the WAPS all-staff celebration on Aug. 30, 2022.

Dr. Clay Cook delivers the keynote address at the WAPS all-staff celebration on Aug. 30, 2022.

The family was back together again. 

On Tuesday morning at Winona Middle School, the entire staff of Winona Area Public Schools gathered to kick off the 2022-23 school year. The all-staff gathering is the centerpiece of a week full of meetings, professional development, parent-teacher conferences, orientation events and more. 

Students won’t be in the school buildings until next week. Some students start on Tuesday, Sept. 6, while all students will be in classrooms on Wednesday, Sept. 7. 

Tuesday’s gathering is the only time all year all staff members are in one place. 

WAPS staff members raise their hands at the all-staff gathering on Aug. 30, 2022

The morning featured a breakfast sponsored by the WAPS School Nutrition department, a welcome address from WAPS School Board Chair Nancy Denzer and a greeting from Foundation for WAPS Executive Director Shelley Milek. Employees were honored for their years of service to the district, while others who are just joining WAPS this year were also recognized. 

Of course, the event also included a welcome address from Superintendent Dr. K. Freiheit, who is starting her fourth year at the helm of the district. Freiheit continued her tradition of reading a children’s book during the all-staff gathering. This year’s book was "I Am One: A Book of Action" by Susan Verde and illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds. The book's message fit perfectly with the theme of coming together as one staff, or One Winhawk, this school year.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Clay Cook, who is the Chief Development Officer at CharacterStrong and an implementation scientist, psychologist, and former paraprofessional and middle school math teacher. His engaging, inspiring message motivated the staff to carry out the necessary work to inspire, engage and empower every student, every day.

For more information on the 2022-23 school year, visit