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Back to School Q&A

Principals, office staff, more prepped for first day of school

Posted: August 22, 2013 5:15 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Tenell Felder/C-I

Pine Tree Hill Elementary Principal Melissa Royalty joins Emily McLaughlin, bookkeeper, and Debbie Bowers, attendance specialist, for a quick picture on the first day of school.

The first day of school after summer break brings mixed emotions for students and teachers. But what about the administrators and office personnel that work behind the scenes getting so many aspects of the school ready for the upcoming year? Some of these personnel shared their insight on what they do to prepare for the school year, how they felt on the first day, and some memories from memorable first days from the past and present.

The employees interviewed with their respective titles and schools were:

• Melissa Emmons and Eva Roach, secretaries, Blaney Elementary

• Tommy Gladden, principal, Lugoff-Elgin High School

• Colonel Eric Boland, headmaster, Camden Military Academy

• Donna Gaskins, bookkeeper, North Central Middle School

• Emily McLaughlin, bookkeeper; Debbie Bowers, attendance specialist; Melissa Royalty, principal, Pine Tree Hill Elementary

Q -- It’s the first day back to school after summer break, how do you feel?

“Tired, but excited to see all the students and teachers back to meet new challenges,” Gaskins said. Also feeling a little tired was Gladden. “In our business, the students bring us energy,” he said, “so when the students come back we become energized again. It’s very exciting.” Emmons and Roach also felt, “fantastic and energized” after a wonderful first day.

Q -- What’s the best or most exciting thing about the first day back from summer break?

For many, it’s seeing the growth and change that takes place in the students during the summer. For Boland, “seeing how the cadets have grown and seeing the new cadets coming in to a new school system” along with “seeing the returning cadets show leadership, maturity and anticipation to lead new cadets” greatly inspires him.

On a similar note, McLaughlin said she loves when the students come back because “we miss them when they’re gone. And Bowers added, “It’s so cute to see them back in their new clothes and new shoes carrying their new bookbags.”

Q -- Everyone knows that much preparation goes into opening a school after summer break, so what are the main things you do to get ready for a new school year?

Gaskins said she makes herself available to parents, teachers and students in any way possible and Emmons and Roach “pray for the safety of the children, parents and staff as the new adventure begins.”

Gladden said his team did “a lot of juggling, developing the master schedule” this year, making sure that each student has the right classes. “We’re basically overseeing the management of over 1,600 individual schedules.” McLaughlin and Bowers also spoke to the rigors of scheduling and registration, saying, “We start in June, assigning classes. Then, we have summer registration and student placement, all while ordering supplies, writing agendas and handbooks, along with making sure painting gets done and floors get waxed. We’ve made up our minds to just roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to get things done.”

Q -- With all the preparation out of the way and the new year officially under way, what are some of your specific hopes and goals for your school?

 “I hope that North Central succeeds, not only with high test scores and meeting the standards, but I also hope we are successful at nurturing our students,” Gaskins said. “My hope is that we can reach out to all students and be compassionate and understanding.”

Success on behalf of the students was something all the interviewees wanted to achieve. “My goal is to mentor and build strong leaders through our leadership program,” Boland said, adding that he believes the success of new cadets is positively influenced by the good example they see demonstrated in returning cadets. McLaughlin and Bowers borrowed their new principal Melissa Royalty’s catchphrase, “Believe it to achieve it. That kind of attitude is contagious and (Royalty) is setting a great example to see the children grow and learn to be both happy and productive.”

Gladden said he was especially excited about the success of the newly implemented chorus program. “The program’s existed before but we have a really dedicated chorus teacher in place now.” That, along with increased numbers of students involved in band and a new schedule in place that allows students to “take band all year long” will be a source of motivation and success for his school, Gladden said.

Q -- First days are often emotional and nervous affairs, but they are also fun and exciting. With all these feelings at play, there are usually many memorable moments. What was the most memorable first day of school you’ve experienced as an administrator or office personnel?

Boland said his first day as administrator was most memorable. “It was back in 2003 and I imagine I was feeling the same kind of anticipation as the new cadets because it was completely new to me and I didn’t know what was in store or what to expect,” he said.

Gladden found this year to be most memorable. “I rolled in at 6:15 a.m. and there was water everywhere. There was standing water on every surface and more coming in from the ceiling,” he said. “Still, we managed to pull it off which really speaks to the skill and experience of our staff.”

McLaughlin and Bowers had a somewhat calmer first day. “The first day this year was so smooth,” they said. “It was smooth as ice which means that things were done correctly.”

Q -- If you could give students or teachers who are nervous about starting school any words of advice or encouragement, what would they be?

Emmons and Roach said, “Educate the children, cherish each moment, but have fun and enjoy it. It is an honor and a pleasure that we have an opportunity to make a positive difference in a child’s life.”

“Always remember it is the first day of school for everyone!” Gaskins said.

“Never miss an opportunity to be involved because there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander,” Boland said.

“Remember the first day is just a small glimpse of what the year will be,” Gladden said.

“Don’t be nervous. Just jump right in and do the best you can do,” McLaughlin and Bowers said.


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