With the sounds of school bells just around the corner, principals, teachers and staff are gearing up for the more than 4,400 students expected on area campuses next week.
Teachers returned to school this week to prepare their classrooms for the first day of school August 3.
Newly hired Superintendent Ben Desper said this year will be one with lots of opportunities for students not only academically but in the arts and athletics as well.
“I am very excited to be here. I’m just as excited as the kids. It’s almost like the first day of school for me again,” Desper said Tuesday morning. “I’ve been around to all the schools over the summer and looked at what they’ve done since school finished this spring. It’s exciting. There are lots of things going on.”
Desper said approximately 140 kids showed up at last week’s new student registration, a surprising number.
“We didn’t expect to have that many show up. They are primarily in elementary grades. We will be carefully monitoring those numbers to see if we need to add staff or move staff around.”
Desper said the upcoming year will have administrators and teachers focusing on what he called the “Three As” – academics, the arts and athletics.”
“It’s an exciting time of year. The principals are all ready to go. We had a meeting this week, and you could just tell they were chomping at the bit to get going and get the staff and kids back for a great year,” he said.
Desper said new bus routes scheduled to roll out next week will save the system money. The savings accomplished by reducing the number of bus drivers equates to two teachers’ salaries.
Desper said new staff in key positions such as athletic director, food service director, high school band director and special education director will also bring new energy to those areas and departments.
The new culinary arts lab at PHS will open, training students for possible careers in the food service industry, he said.
“We also have a big, new program – the “School’s In Don’t Be Out.” That’s something we’re really impressed with,” Desper said. “If we can get students here, we can teach them. The number one thing employers look for is a good work ethic.”
Desper also said school officials will focus on strategic planning this year.
“It’s more in-depth than the SACS planning. We’ll be looking at where we want to be five years from now. What’s the direction Pickens County schools need to head into to serve our kids best,” he said.
Desper will speak at the high school this Friday at the system-wide meeting where he will introduce himself to teachers and staff.