Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sights and sounds as the school year begins


A lawyer, a health inspector, a limo driver, and the Mayor…These are just a few of the titles bestowed on me in recent days as I visited our schools and students were asked who the tall, goofy man standing before them might be.  As a career educator, it is intriguing to think about these new employment options, however, I must confess that the job I have is the one I love – being your superintendent. 
As school began this year, I and my staff vowed to be more visible to the students, teachers, and parents we serve.  With ten schools, a quickly growing student population of almost 7,000 students, over 100 new employees and nearly 900 returning employees, this task is not as easy as some may think.  Yet, the importance of knowing what is taking place in our classrooms, cafeterias, and front offices firsthand is invaluable as we work to make decisions for the kids of Oconee County.  Thus, as the year began so has our journey to meet more students, parents, and educators. 

Two weeks into the school year, I can say without a doubt that we continue to have tremendous schools with world-class teachers offering educational opportunities that were unimaginable when you and I were kids.  We have leaders dedicated to serving students and our community from early in the morning to late at night, with events ranging from FFA dinners to ballgames to weekend student leadership retreats.  We have custodians who care deeply about the cleanliness of our facilities, cafeteria workers who ensure our students are fed nutritious meals, and bus drivers who are committed to safely transporting our kids from doorstep to doorstep.  Everywhere I go, a commitment to excellence is clearly present.

So, where have I been and what have I seen?
On Day 1, Dr. Claire Miller, OCS chief academic officer, and I visited all ten schools.  We saw happy students, excited teachers, and engaged classrooms.  Many stated that this was the best start in recent memory.

At RBES, I had the privilege of opening 220 car doors with the safety patrol and Ms. Wages early one morning.  Thankfully, I picked a day when it was not raining.

I assisted with bus dismissal at RBES one afternoon.  This time the rain caught up with me, but luckily umbrellas were provided!
I assisted Michael, a 4th grade student at HSES, and Jody, a paraprofessional at OCES, with greeting parents and students in the car rider line and learned that rolling book bags are in style at OCES and colorful shoes are all the rage at HSES.

Ms. Hilley, Ms. Soni, Ms. Bentley, Ms. Tolbert, and Ms. Robinette welcomed me into their classrooms as did countless others.  Wow! Tremendous teaching and learning is taking place.
And just yesterday, I attempted to assist Ms. Paige Bowen, as she skillfully ran dismissal at OCPS.  Sorry about the mud Paige…

Follow my travels to our schools on twitter @JasonLBranch and email me your experiences at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.  I hope to see you in the schools.     

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