Local Elementary principals are getting their staffs ready for a brand new year, but they say the main focus this summer has been the kids.
As students get set to meet their new teachers for the first time next week, scrambling and last-minute preparations are among items on the agenda for several area schools.
“You want the kids to be excited when they walk in,” said Spearman Elementary Principal Jason Lesley. “You want them to see new things in the school and have it looking brand new for when the parents come. We want to do whatever we can do to build excitement for the new school year.”
East End Principal Tammy Day says preparation does not just begin in the summer.
“You really finish the previous year getting ready for the next year,” said Day. “We have to secure our staff and faculty, look for a theme and focus for the new year, and get the children and parents engaged in what we’re doing.”
Forest Acres Principal Darian Byrd agrees with Day, and says there is always room for improvement.
“You always think you can do it just a little bit better every year,” said Byrd. “We just try to make it so every child has an equal chance to learn every year.”
This year will require another year of preparations for common core standards, which will require some changes in the classrooms in the years to come. Principals say that has been a huge focus this summer as well.
“Our district has done an exceptional job of keeping us on the cutting edge,” said Day. “Common core will be a focus change on how we do our standards. The district has done a good job of using money to focus on standard implementation.”
Day says there have been a lot of workshops and professional development seminars for her staff. The key now is getting the right materials for implementation.
“You have to have the right materials in hand to open a school year,” said Day. “It can be overwhelming at times, but you have to have the right materials in the hands of the teachers so that when the day opens they are ready to go.”
Byrd says his school is preparing for the change also.
“Our theme this year is ‘On Track for Success’,” said Byrd. “We’ve got some changes coming down from the state level, so everything these teachers have been used to for the last 10 years is being adjusted. With a year full of changes I wanted to come up with some way to keep the teachers focused on the children.”
A new year brings many new students, and Lesley says he knows what that feels like for the kids.
“You just want them to get a good taste in their mouth and have that first experience be a good experience,” said Lesley. “We’re trying to make them comfortable and safe, and let the parents know that their kid is going to be taken care of.”
Day recalls her own elementary experience.
“I think back to my own experience,” said Day. “I can remember walking down the long sidewalk at Forest Acres as a first grader and all of the excitement. I can remember coming to East End as a fourth grader, and my heart beating faster as I walked in the door to find out who my new teachers were. The great thing about education is that you have a new beginning every year.”
As for the days ahead, last-minute decisions are surely on the horizon. Byrd says he is scrambling to finish up the hiring process and hopes to finalize schedules in the coming days.
“Getting ready is really the fun part about what we do,” said Byrd. “It’s really a brand new place every year.”
Changes and preparations aside, local officials agree that the focus for the new year should be placed on the children.
“I want, at the end of the year, to be able to say at East End that we did the best we could for all of our children,” said Day. “We want them to be able to meet their potential, and we want to be able to know that we’ve focused on our children. They are our top priority.”
Byrd says he wants his school to reach each student in a unique way.
“I’m challenging every teacher to find a path in every child that is going to help them be successful,” said Byrd. “Everybody is different. Some are more gifted in math, others are more gifted in reading, some learn visually, and some learn orally. You’ve got to find everybody’s strengths and learn how to get them to that level of success.”