Thursday, August 16, 2012

Welcome Back


The heartbeat of our hallways returned last week. Our students, some more eagerly than others, rolled out of bed on Wednesday to begin another school year. With their return came the laughter and smiles that make educators love their jobs and teach and lead with passion, pride, and purpose. As I visited our schools, talking with students, teachers and parents, it was stated to me on more than one occasion that schools are just too lonely and quiet over the summer. I agree wholeheartedly and want to personally welcome back our kids.

Of the nearly 6,600 young men and women who entered one of Oconee County’s 10 schools on Wednesday, 463 were beginning their educational journey for the first time – starting kindergarten. I had the pleasure of meeting many of these students as I visited our schools, and the eagerness and excitement in their eyes is something that cannot be replicated. They are truly excited to be along for the ride, to learn and grow, and to play and prosper.

Other students (1,171 of them) were also experiencing a new and exciting time last week as they began their middle school or high school experience. These students demonstrated the calm, cool presence of seasoned learners, but I am sure that they were also a little eager with the anticipation and excitement that greets the unknown.

Speaking of anticipation, Oconee County Schools also welcomed 40 new employees to the ranks of our nearly 1,000 staff members. These teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, clerical and custodial personnel represent the best of the best. We wish these new employees great success as they work to support our students.

The students of Colham Ferry Elementary School also experienced a first on Wednesday. Thanks to the generous support of our community, E-SPLOST funds were used to renovate several parts of their school. Students entered to find the beautiful murals remaining, but also new floors, freshly painted classrooms, and a safer campus for their enjoyment.

As you can see, Oconee County Schools is experiencing growth and development in our facilities, personnel, and as always in our students. The heartbeat of a school system is its students and ours have returned to the fold for another great year. Over 1,500 of them have entered new schools and have conquered the first day and first week. But what is next for them?

This week’s column has sampled a few of the firsts of our school system. Yet, these firsts do not happen without planning and purpose. Great school systems and communities plan for greatness and then work the plan. As we enter the 2012-2013 school year, what do you think our school system should be planning to accomplish? Where should we focus our attention? What “upgrades” do we need to consider for our students? I look forward to your comments. Please email me to share them at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.

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