The colors are changing in the trees, there’s a slight crispness to the air, and today marks a full week since all of our students returned to school. Nothing quite matches the energy and buzz of the start of a new year, and by all accounts the 2017-2018 academic year is off to a great start.
All of our schools went above and beyond with a variety of welcoming events during the last days of summer vacation to ensure a smooth transition for all students. Our elementary schools hosted open houses and ice cream socials, our middle schools held a variety of team meet and greets, and MHS hosted their annual Freshman BBQ.
Teachers and staff got their own welcome back with two days of professional development kicked off with a warm greeting from our new superintendent, Carl Gartley. The district Wellness Team added an element of fun to the opening event with a Price is Right game, complete with appropriate sound effects, hosted by MMS Principal Mark Hatch. Randomly selected staff members got to compete for school supplies and wellness days in a variety of games from the classic show. “This was a very energizing and creative way to start school,” said MHS science teacher Cathy Gilles.
By the afternoon of the first day, the focus was entirely on making sure staff was prepared for the school year with additional time for teachers to work in their departments and classes. Everyone was excited to welcome students back on Wednesday and Thursday with a variety of first day traditions ranging from small gifts on elementary student’s desks, to the MHS faculty rock band serenading the student body at the opening assembly.
Of course, the preparation for all this and more began long before the end of August. Teachers were thinking, planning, and prepping through the long “lazy” days of summer; every support department from transportation to nutrition were busy making sure everything was ready for our students from the moment they set out for their first day; and the administrative team was hard at work planning the central focus of the new academic year.
According to Superintendent Carl Gartley, this year’s main academic goal is to increase the number of students meeting and exceeding standards by 5%. This will be done by solidifying common elements of the instructional framework and using more data driven instruction while providing professional development on the use of technology and other resources to support this goal. The second goal is to provide staff with effective tools to explicitly teach students self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, social awareness, and self-awareness in order to “cultivate a positive educational environment by fostering social and emotional learning.” In order to meet these goals, new hires this summer have included a new behavioral position and additional special education staff along with the many other talented teachers and administrators who joined the district this year.
One short week in, everyone has hit the ground running. Students are settling-in to classes, pre-assessments have been scored and recorded, and extra-curricular activities and athletics are in full swing. The high school is already getting ready for one of its biggest events of the year. “We’re jumping right into homecoming activities, as it is next week,” said English teacher Laurel Hanson, “and that provides a fun focus for class unity and friendly inter-class competition.”
Just as we finished strong last year, we are off to a strong start and looking forward to all the challenges and triumphs this school year will bring.