How long do 15,000 Christian County students take to adjust to the new school year? Does it take until this week—the third week? Does it take until the first sign of fall? Until the first test?
Chances are, it’s different for each and every one of them. Perhaps it’d make for another back-to-school story, though the Christian County Headliner News continues to look back to the last week of summer, when each and every school employee checked last-minute items off to-do lists to make sure everything was in order.
In the third and final installment of this back-to-school series, the Headliner News shares the duties of dedicated leaders of schools—superintendents and principals.
It was only last year when Clever’s Benjy Fenske shed the role of director of elementary education and spread his blue jay wings as district superintendent.
“While I know this district very well, the new role I have is challenging—but rewarding,” Fenske told the Headliner News. “I look forward to a great school year in a great district I call home.”
Before welcoming students back home, too, Fenske’s back-to-school tasks included meetings with the district’s administrative team and curriculum coordinator to discuss student performance data, assisting in the organization of new-year events, such as a new teacher orientation and open house, and beginning conversations regarding Clever’s long-range planning.
His duties also included attending and supporting teachers in professional development training.
“We are becoming a Leader in Me school this year after three and a half years of planning and research,” Fenske said. Leader in Me is a school improvement model, according to its website.
Sparta School District Superintendent Rocky Valentine added the weeks leading up to the new school year are often the busiest in the year. His responsibilities are similar to Fenske’s.
“From onboarding new staff, various training events and putting the final touches to building maintenance, late July and early August are very hectic,” Valentine said. “For me, the most rewarding time is seeing students and their families at registration and open house events. The excitement of the new school year makes all the time and effort worth it.”
Many students will tell you it isn’t easy moving from those sweet summertime feelings back into an instructional mindset. It proves difficult for Billings Elementary Principal Ben Abramovitz, too.
“It can be a daunting and strenuous task to get myself out of that relax mode and into game mode, as we all love our home time with family and friends,” Abramovitz told the Headliner News.
His beginning-of-the-year tasks, however, make the transition much easier.
“Returning starts with building walk-throughs to see if anything still needs attention,” he said. “The next large task is verifying teachers’ supply orders and student resources and making sure those items have either arrived or they are on their way.”
Abramovitz’s duties also include giving lunch schedules, recess schedules and duty schedules a final look to avoid any overlap issues, “even though sometimes you miss items and therefore you’re amending on the run,” he added.
There’s a lot to do, but again, it’s all worth it—especially for Billings High School Principal Jennifer Wilson.
“It’s an exciting time of the year, full of possibilities and promise,” Wilson said. “It’s another chance to make a difference in the lives of our students.”
Making a difference is something Jessica Burke looks forward to as Highlandville Elementary’s newest principal. She transferred into the role after having served as a fourth-grade teacher and instructional coach for a combined five years. In her last few weeks of summer, she focused on growing relationships.
“It’s about adjusting to being a peer to teachers to their administrator,” Burke explained. “It’s about having conversations with the teachers and building trust.”
She also focused on communication with the community in the last weeks of summer and created a newsletter. Other duties have included learning how to evaluate teachers and examining recent MAP scores.
“That way, we can present those to the teachers first thing, so they know where the gaps in learning are and what they need to hit,” Burke said.
Back across the county, Clever High School Principal Joe Casey spent the last few days of summer break finalizing handbooks and back-to-school agendas, and revising safety and security protocols. He also collaborated with the rest of the high school in preparation for a building-wide event to take place at the end of October.
“Staff members worked across multiple disciplines to prepare activities and projects for students that will culminate with a community showcase night to present their work,” Casey said.
Casey also makes an effort in the last week of summer to connect with new teachers. He took time to enjoy his colleagues in a Clever Board of Education-hosted barbecue the day before classes began, too.
“Having this chance to refresh and refocus is something we all appreciate,” Casey said.
He added his back-to-school goal is to have as much in place before students arrive, so that he’s visible as all of them kick off a new year of learning.
“The early days of August, before students arrive, are vital to a successful first day, as well as the weeks to follow,” Casey said.
That’s a wrap on the Christian County Headliner News’ back-to-school series, though it’s far from the end of the school year. For more stories regarding the county’s many school employees and students, readers can always find them here. Additionally, any and all school story ideas are welcome and appreciated. They may be sent to email@example.com.