Summer is not quite over, but students returned to schools across the Public Schools of Robeson County this week. Many students and parents waited with excitement along the counties roads as the yellow buses rolled by. Monday brought a smooth first day for our boys and girls.
All transported students arrived to school safely. The district began the day with approximately 24,000 students, 1,555 teachers and 129 support staff. The first day of school requires a tremendous amount of preparation. Our teachers were out for two months. Their first week back involved days of classroom prep and organization. Our new teachers also have orientation to discuss handbooks, policies, procedures and the course work expectations with students.
Also across the district, educators are learning the latest technology such as utilizing the “Google Apps for Education” suite. Specifically, the Public Schools of Robeson County is now a “Google Apps for Education” district. All documents for educators are now stored online in the Google Drive. This change saves the district money, as the service is free. The email is also free. This was a big change for our district during the past eight months. With recent budgets cuts, these changes show that our staff is staying on the cutting edge of technology, while keeping a pulse on the budget. In years past, E-rate federal funding supported the district email access as well as web hosting. Now the E-rate funding only covers infrastructure.
School staff members worked diligently throughout the summer to prepare for the students return. Students found many of their school hallways and classrooms with a fresh coat of paint or new materials. Students at Union Chapel Elementary will soon have a new cafeteria. The building is under construction to expand the facilities to allow more efficient and effective operation of the cafeteria and child nutrition program. Deep Branch Elementary School received new bathrooms for the boys and girls. Renovations are also underway on the older structure at Parkton Elementary. The maintenance staff continues to work on gym improvements across the district.
The school improvement chairs and the district administration meet on Sept. 9 to discuss development of the district plans for the school year. State law requires us to create school improvement plans. The state gives each district five statewide goals. From those goals, each district develops the strategic plan at the district level and moves forward with objectives to meet those goals. This year, one strong push is to align the written, taught and tested curriculum. This means our teachers should be teaching and assessing the standards to see the students’ strengths and deficits to allow them to plan for re-teaching.
On Monday, district administrators will also meet with all school principals to discuss test scores, accountability and benchmark changes.
The smooth beginning of the new school year is a testament to all the hard work of our staff. Administrators and teachers look forward to the opportunity to make 2015 -2016 an award-winning year for all of our students who brighten the halls of our 42 schools.
Tommy Lowry is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.