08/23/05 — Big crowds attend open houses at Wayne schools

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Big crowds attend open houses at Wayne schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 23, 2005 1:49 PM

Open house can be compared to a trial run for the first day of school, without the tardy bells.

Traffic congestion outside, crowds of people in the hallways, parents and students vying for teachers' and principals' attention -- at middle and high schools across the county Monday night, excitement was the common theme, with administrators pleased about record numbers in attendance.

Classes for Wayne County public school students start Thursday. Elementary schools will hold their open houses tonight from 5-7 p.m.

At Mount Olive Middle School late Monday afternoon, cheerleaders Erica Suncin and Danielle Ashford scurried down the hallway to deliver a box of pencils to a teacher. The seventh graders said their job was to help wherever they were needed.

Both admitted to being a little anxious about the start of school.

"I'm nervous," Danielle said. "But you still know everybody. I'm excited about meeting new students."

Tim Snyder accompanied his daughter, eighth grader Suzanne, as she located her classrooms.

"It's hard to believe she's growing up so fast," he said. "I keep telling her she'll be a big wheel this year before going to high school."

"It's exciting, but still nerve-wracking," said Suzanne.

Ebony Faison of Mount Olive said her next stop would be Southern Wayne High School, where daughter Brittanie and friend Keya Frederick will be ninth graders. The two attended Mount Olive Middle last year and were helping Kaleb Faison, a sixth grader, find his classes.

Principal Craig Uzzell patrolled the halls, directing traffic and answering questions. With about 320 students expected, he said an increase prompted the need to add another eighth-grade section.

Uzzell said he was pleased with the turnout.

"It's a pretty good crowd coming in," he said. "All the teachers have everything ready and prepared."

Rena Mason, an eighth-grade math and science teacher, said the open house served several purposes.

"It's a chance to see faces, give out supply lists and a syllabus, the rules and procedures," she said.

Wilma Foote, a seventh-grade language arts and social studies teacher, greeted parents and students outside her classroom. She said she was ready for school to begin.

"I'm excited," she said. "We have got a good group of teachers working together."

Casey Brock, a sixth grader, said the open house had helped with some of the jitters. Exiting the building with his mother and older sister, he said he had seen several classmates he knew.

"I'm not so nervous now," he said.

His mother, Debra, admitted she had been a little nervous, too, despite the fact that Casey was her fourth child. The open house also brought back a lot of memories, she said, since she had attended the same school when it was an elementary school.

At Brogden Middle School, Scott, Terry and Mykayla Hines were waiting to talk with the principal. As a fifth grader, it will be Mykayla's first year changing classes, her parents said.

"This is our 14th year doing this," said Mrs. Hines, who has two older children.

"I might still cry every day," said Terry, referring to her youngest child entering middle school.

Mrs. Hines teaches fourth grade at Brogden Primary School and was gearing up for her open house tonight.

Assistant Principal Dottie Hobbs helped parents and students with class lists posted on the wall outside the library.

"It's always exciting," she said. "A little confusing, but we have got it organized and we're going to be fine."

Laquan Bunch, a seventh grader, seemed perfectly calm about the situation. It's his third year at the school. "I know my way around," he said.

Twelve-year-old Demarcus Quinn, a seventh grader, has also been at the school since the fifth grade but said he still had to learn where his new classrooms were.

"I'm kinda nervous," he said. "But I'm going to find my classes."

Meanwhile, parent Meshia Davis, attending the open house with her husband, Orlando, expressed mock frustration before being reunited with their two children, Brittany Graham, a seventh grader, and Di'Twan Davis, a fifth grader.

"They just left us," Mrs. Davis said. "They're talking to their friends.

"The parents want to meet the teachers, too."

Principal Earl Moore, proudly displaying the Ph.D. certification he earned over the summer, said he was equally as excited about the start of a new school year.

Referring to the adage that "it takes a village to raise a child," he said he has enlisted the support of several resources to help with that mission. A group of his fraternity brothers, "Boys to Men," have already volunteered as mentors to some of the boys, have become business partners with the school and will be on hand for the first day of school to support the students and staff.

"They will be a presence in the school," he said, noting it will be just one of the many outreach efforts he plans for his school, including an after-school 4-H program.

And nearby Brogden Methodist Church, which hosted a staff appreciation lunch for Brogden Primary School on Monday, planned to serve lunch to the middle school staff today.

"We're just trying to reach out to the community, to agencies that will impact our children," he said. "We want to prepare them not only for the school year but for the future. We're trying to embrace that village once again to work together for the child."

At Southern Wayne High School, Jermaine Glaspie returned to his alma mater this year as a teaching assistant as well as a coach. He said he had already seen several students he had worked with at Grantham Middle School, where he had assisted with the athletic program.

He will also work with ISS, the in-school suspension program. And while he has also worked extensively with students with behavioral problems since graduating from college, he said he approaches the new year optimistically

"I think it's going to be all right," he said. "I don't think we're going to have many problems."

Phyllis Hill, director of the school-based health centers' WISH program, was on hand to introduce herself to parents and students. This will be the first year the program is offered at Southern Wayne, with students having their own school nurse. Lisa Davis will be at the school every day and said she looks forward to providing that care.

Sophomore Nicole Williams attended to help younger sister Samantha, an incoming freshman, locate her classes. Nicole said the event was helpful "so you won't get lost."

Samantha was enthusiastic about entering high school and said she has big plans for the future.

"I want to be a teacher or a veterinarian," she said, adding that she hopes to attend Fayetteville State University after graduation. Meanwhile, she said she would also enjoy playing basketball and cheerleading.

Custodian Clem Williams said his staff had worked hard to prepare the school for the fall. He and Donald Davis, head custodian, and Curtis Gray, tackled such projects as waxing floors throughout the building and doing maintenance and cleaning during the summer break.

"Now we get to watch as the people come through," he said.

Principal Richard Sauls, a veteran educator at schools around the county, said it was one of the largest open-house crowds he had ever seen.

"It's been non-stop, continuous, an especially large turnout of ninth graders."

Teacher Jan Carey, who will teach exceptional children at Southern Wayne this year, called it the "largest turnout I have ever seen in my 19 years of teaching."

He told students asking about supplies needed, to "Bring a good attitude; learning can be hard but sometimes it can be fun, too."

Sauls said that even though he had enjoyed his summer vacation, he was ready for classes to begin.

"There comes a time when you just want to go ahead and start," he said.