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It doesn't slow down...

Posted: July 1, 2011 8:52 a.m.
Updated: July 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.

I stopped by the Farmer’s Market on Memorial Day weekend, and I ran into a neighbor who said something to me about how it must be nice in the summer when things slow down. Admittedly, summer does provide the opportunity for some rest and recharging. But in reality, our school district remains unbelievably busy over the summer. Getting ready for a new school year is a monumental and complex task.

Some very important capital projects are underway this summer. Long-needed HVAC replacement at Camden High, Lugoff-Elgin High and ATEC were started when this past school year ended. When completed, these projects will make a tremendous difference in terms of energy efficiency. Likewise, the replacement of the ventilation system in the welding lab at ATEC will significantly enhance environmental safety. The long-awaited completion of the Camden High School Sports Complex across from the school will bring all three of our high schools to parity in terms of athletic facilities. Also, the work to renovate the old Lugoff-Elgin Middle School is being completed this summer so that this building can be used as an annex for Lugoff-Elgin High School starting in the fall. All of these projects are in addition to the work involved in moving the district office from several locations to a consolidated facility. 

Beyond these major projects, a tremendous amount of normal maintenance work occurs in the summer. Obviously, each of our schools is thoroughly cleaned -- a huge enterprise in and of itself -- but there are also many other projects being completed such as painting, carpet and tile replacement, preventative HVAC maintenance and standard general repairs. Even under the best of circumstances, school facilities get a lot of wear and tear. Special thanks to our maintenance department. These folks do great work all year, but they are at their absolute best in the summer!

Our human resources department remains in high gear throughout the summer months. In addition to the normal hiring that takes place in June and July, planning for orientation of new staff, training of mentors for new teachers and planning for the year’s professional development activities are on the agenda. In addition, preparation for the yearly benefits renewal for all of our employees takes place in the summer. It is no small task to organize benefits renewal for approximately 1,200 full- and part-time employees in 20-plus locations. I am also very pleased that our human resources staff has been working to digitize transcripts of past graduates in order to speed up the process to respond to requests from the public for these documents. 

One fiscal year ends on June 30 and another begins on July 1. This transition is a huge assignment for our finance staff. It includes working with external auditors, completing the various required state reports, setting up payroll and assuring that the new budget is correctly entered into the financial management system. This year’s work has been complicated by the fact that the General Assembly did not pass a final budget until past mid-June. 

Our food service staff spends the summer ordering and replacing equipment, managing inventories, processing food contracts and food orders, completing required state and federal reporting and preparing to process free and reduced lunch applications. Our food service staff also partners with the United Way of Kershaw County on its summer feeding program. As I have frequently pointed out, the school district runs the largest restaurant operation in Kershaw County. Having everything ready to feed our students two meals on the first day of schools is a huge responsibility. 

Our technology staff works throughout the summer to complete numerous tasks to prepare for the new school year including preparing high school laptops for distribution, performing normal network and server maintenance, ordering and processing new equipment and completing a wide variety of school-based work orders. One of the most critical technology-related tasks in the summer is to “roll over” the school district data base and prepare for the reopening of the “Parent Portal,” an application that enables parents to monitor student grades and attendance. It is an imposing proposition for the district’s technology to be operational for the start of the school year. 

Even with school being out, our facilities are still very busy with activities for young people. High school summer school, summer workouts for fall athletic teams, sports camps, cheerleading camps, robotics camps, a new summer camp program being sponsored by the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office and a summer program at Baron DeKalb Elementary funded by a 21st Century grant keep our facilities buzzing throughout June and July. 

Finally, but certainly not least, summer is a time for instructional planning for the coming school year. During the summer, I sit down with each of our principals and district instructional staff for evaluation, review of student performance data and goal setting for the coming year. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of the summer routine because it is a time to discuss our primary mission, student learning. 

Getting a new school year started requires the efforts and cooperation of many people over the summer. What I have described here doesn’t begin to completely capture all that has to be done to be ready for 10,000-plus students on Aug. 17, but I can say without hesitation that it doesn’t really slow down in the summer.

I’m always pleased to talk with community members about our schools. My phone number is 425-8916 and my email is frank.morgan@kcsdschools.net. Citizens can also contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district website. I also invite folks to read my “blog” and listen to the podcast I record after each school board meeting with meeting highlights. Both of these, and a whole lot more, can be accessed at www.kershaw.k12.sc.us.

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