08/15/10 — Back-to-school prep under way

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Back-to-school prep under way

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 15, 2010 1:50 AM

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Reginald Moses, custodian at Rosewood High School, sets up chairs at a computer desk in one of the classrooms. Area high schools are preparing for the upcoming school year. Classes in Wayne County Public Schools resume on Aug. 25.

When school bells dismissed students for the summer, for others that simply signaled the start of another, even busier, season -- getting ready for the next school year.

"Basically, our summer is what we in transportation consider the busiest time of the school year," said Raymond Smith, director of transportation for Wayne County Public Schools.

During the summer months, all buses are serviced and readied for the next group of students.

But there are still a number from the fleet that continue to run.

"We had close to 40 buses on the road this summer," Smith said. "We had summer school. Then, of course, we have some activities so the activity buses were in use.

"You would be surprised by the number of summer activities -- camps for cheerleaders, athletes going to different camps, occasions outside the school system that utilize our buses, 4-H programs, Boys and Girls Club, Goldsboro Parks and Recreation, and we have to maintain all that."

As the return to classes looms -- the first day is Aug. 25 -- there is much to be done in anticipation of students' arrival.

Bus schedules rank high on the list.

In the transportation department, TIMS, or transportation information management system, creates new bus routes each year.

With 19,000-plus students in the district, about 12,000 ride a school bus each day, Smith said.

That's a lot of scheduling.

"You have children moving from one place to another, which may change our bus assignments, moving from one grade level to another, from elementary to middle school," he said. "All of those kids are going to require new bus assignments.

"Also in the midst are kids entering school for the first time. We have got to get the registration information for all the kids. It's an ongoing, never-ending process."

Food service is also "big business," said Barbara Ward, director of child nutrition for the school system.

"We work all summer getting ready," she said, estimating that on a typical school day about 5,000 breakfasts and another 14,500 lunches are served.

One task accomplished during these past two months has been to update computer software, which contains student account information, and readying free and reduced lunch applications that will be distributed during upcoming open houses.

Cafeteria managers are out all summer, but this year the district had summer school at 15 schools, which changed things up a bit.

The department also uses the summer for staff training and making food safety plans.

"We have over 200 employees, 29 cafeterias, but we satellite food at Wayne Early/Middle College High School," Ms. Ward said. "Just for one week, it's (around) $55,000 worth of food and supplies. We have one food and supply distributor."

The process of ordering food and supplies begins long before school cafeterias reopen for business in the fall.

"We write all of our menus. Right now, through the second week of September, we have ordered enough food to get us through the first few weeks of school," Ms. Ward said. "The first delivery will be on the 24th, which is the day before school. ... There's a lot of other things. We do get some foods from the federal government and had to do that before school even got out in the spring, for the coming year."

Buildings must also be readied in time for open houses, which are planned for Aug. 19 and 23.

Workers have been buffing and waxing floors, moving furniture, mowing lawns and addressing any repairs that can be more easily handled while the buildings are empty.

Marvin McCoy's job has been to make sure there will be enough workers in place to accommodate students. The assistant superintendent for human resource services said he is "feeling comfortable" with the new hires already in place, but anticipates having more secured within the next two weeks.

"We're very optimistic to fill all the positions because of the allotments being reduced and the class size being increased," he said. "One of the things that a part of education is we lose people in one area ... and we have to hire in other areas because of the shortage -- math and science and EC (exceptional children).

"With the budget cuts, we're scaling back, and we have to have possible cuts in certain areas where there's an abundance of teachers, but have to hire in other areas where there's always a shortage of teachers, and that's those three areas that I just mentioned."

Students at two schools already returned to classes earlier this past week -- Wayne Early/Middle College High School and Wayne School of Engineering. All of the teacher slots in both are "intact," McCoy said.

He is keeping in close communication with principals at the 31 schools here on out to assess staffing needs.

"I can tell you without a doubt there will be no K-6 vacancies," he said. "There's a freeze right now on teacher assistants and as we're looking at how the budget funding is.

"There's something that surprised me that a lot of folks don't know about -- with the budget there's no state funding for custodial or secretarial, so we have to find alternative means and that impacts our budget questions."

Of course, the teaching needs will remain a concern even after the school year starts.

"After the 10th day of school, that's when the real story comes in for us, whether or not we have to hire," he said, referencing the benchmark the state uses to determine class size and whether more or fewer teachers are needed at each school depending on enrollment numbers. "And then we have challenges whenever a person is on short-term disability or worker's compensation. Their position cannot be filled by a person with benefits, so that hinders the process."

Principals worked throughout the summer months, not only hiring sufficient staffing but there are also some things that can only be done when the building is vacant, said Tammy Keel, principal at Mount Olive Middle School.

"Many of the renovations or improvements to the school are made during the summer," she said. "This summer, Mount Olive Middle has had ceilings lowered in the hallways, new entrance doors installed at the front of the school, and some improvements in our Life Skills classroom."

The reassignment as administrator -- she has been assistant principal at Brogden Middle School since 2006 -- is sort of a homecoming for Ms. Keel, who started her career in Wayne County at Mount Olive Middle, as a teacher in 1999.

"As a new principal, I met with members of my staff during the summer months to get to know them and share my vision and mission," she said. "Since my first day as the principal was July 1, I have had to organize and structure my days to make certain that I complete the tasks necessary for the start of the school year."

Dean Sauls, principal at Rosewood High School, agreed that there is much to be done in anticipation of another school year.

"We're continually enrol-ling new students as we speak," he said earlier this week. "We picked up five or 10 this week. ... The ladies in the office are busy helping me put handbooks together, lots of handbooks for the teachers to get used to the rules and regulations and policies.

"(They are) entering all the information for new students into the computers and there's always workshops going on, sponsored by the county."

In addition to custodians taking care of the interior of the building, there have also been outdoor projects. With eight sports being offered in the fall, Sauls said the coaches have been doing their part to maintain the fields.

Teachers are slated to return to their respective schools on Aug. 18, although the district gave permission to any desiring to come in earlier to set up classrooms.