DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of staff in Durham Public Schools attended a rally this morning to kickoff the new school year.

More than 5,000 DPS staff members were at Wednesday’s convocation at Durham County Stadium. It’s the first time in five years the district has hosted the event, and the superintendent says it’s all about thanking the teachers and staff for what they do.

“They deal with a lot emotionally, mentally and all that kind of stuff. This is a good way to say thank you and start this academic year and say we are here to support you,” said superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga.

It comes as the district says it has just over 110 teacher vacancies, compared to 250 this time last year.

“When you look at our schools, we have about 56 schools. That’s an average of about 2 vacant positions per schools. It’s better than what we had last year,” Mubenga said.

District leaders also used the event to roll out their new five-year strategic plan, focusing on several areas like raising test scores and lowering staff turnover.