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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Dr. Robert Arias, superintendent of the Bakersfield City School District, speaks to the entire staff of the school district during a morning rally held at CSUB's Icardo Center Friday.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Bakersfield City School District staff attends a rally at CSUB's Icardo Center In August 2012.

School staff are "the ray of hope" who have the ability to influence children every single day, Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Rob Arias told nearly 3,000 staffers Friday during a districtwide rally in Cal State Bakersfield's Icardo Center.

Chanting "B-C-S-D" in unison while stomping on bleachers, waving pom-poms and tossing beach balls, thousands of employees, administrators and school officials gathered to bring in the new school year starting Monday while representing their own campuses. They rallied around new values, vision, mission and goals in the district.

Among those values are:

* Integrity: "Never forget you may be the only responsible adult in (students') lives," said Arias, who joined the district in January. "You may be that ray of hope for them."

* Caring: "You have the power to affect a child every single day," Arias said. "Don't give up on any of our children."

Arias asked staff to help "break the cycle of poverty" with education for the 88 percent of children in the district living in poverty, and to respond to the needs of every single one of 28,000-plus students in BCSD -- the largest K-8 district in California.

He also asked staff to be "culturally proficient" to address high suspension rates among certain racial groups. African-American students in BCSD make up 9 percent of the student population, but make up 24 percent of suspensions, Arias said.

The district will implement a new electronic referral system, and a new "positive referal" system acknowledging students making positive leaps.

Also new this school year, BCSD will reach out better to parents and work toward a better accountability and evaluation system for students and staff, Arias told them.

The purpose of the "rally around the Vision" event was "to build a common understanding ... and build momentum around what is best for the 28,000 children we serve," Arias told The Californian in an email.

The "professional development" event cost about $25,000. It's unknown if BCSD will hold such events in the future given the current state budget crisis, Arias said.

"However, we felt it was imperative that our BCSD team have clarity around where we are and the direction we are headed in an effort to increase student achievement for all students," he said.

-- Jorge Barrientos, Californian staff