Have you ever just let your mind wander? Sometimes, when faced with a perplexing situation or problem it is easy to drift away and begin to watch as the sunlight plays on the water or the cotton from our regal Cottonwood tree floats through the air. That is exactly what has happened to me today every single time I started thinking about what to write this month.
Then I force myself to return to the question: What should I write about? When school is out for the summer, what does the superintendent focus attention on? There are no students walking the halls, playing sports, or studying for exams. There are no teachers planning lessons, coaching students, or engaging young minds in the curriculum. There are no principals leading staff members, interacting with students in the halls, or encouraging innovative thinking. But, wait a minute; there is a great deal of activity in the district during the summer.
Student athletes are engaged with a variety of coaches as they attend camps and participate in conditioning sessions. Students are taking driver’s training courses and teachers are planning lessons and teaching these young drivers the rules of the road and how to become defensive drivers. Some students are participating in summer school and teachers are working with students to maintain and grow their skills and knowledge. Food service personnel are working so that students who attend summer sessions or need support for nutritional meals have access to meals. So, students are walking the halls. Principals and teachers are attending a variety of professional learning opportunities so that leading, teaching, planning, interacting, and engaging stakeholders will be based on best practices.
Meanwhile, a dedicated group of employees handle all of the tasks that must take place during the summer so that school will open on time and the resources that students and teachers need will be in place. Maintenance and custodial staff clean lockers, desks, walls, carpets, shelves, locker rooms, libraries, offices, and basically everything in buildings across the district. They oversee or complete major repairs and construction projects. Additionally, staff members take delivery of textbooks, paper products, classroom and office materials; process these deliveries to make sure that what was ordered was delivered; and then deliver all of these items to the schools.
Technology team members replace computers throughout the district and prepare for new deployment of student devices. This summer district technicians are preparing 1,100 computers for Newton High School students for a 1:1 deployment in August and an additional 250 computers for Santa Fe 5/6 Center to create a 1:1 environment for fifth and sixth graders. In addition, all teacher laptops will be replaced this summer as part of a planned rotation schedule. This doesn’t even include all of the cleaning and preparing of existing technology throughout the district or the new wireless infrastructure for Santa Fe, South Breeze, and Sunset schools that is being installed this summer.
Members of the staff complete various tasks to support curriculum and professional learning efforts. Some order the textbooks and this year alone over $500,000 of new textbooks were ordered for social studies, science, and math courses. Some staff members provide professional learning for teachers and others so that they can use new or refined skills and activities in classrooms beginning in the fall. And, of course, there is significant planning that occurs during the summer for professional learning that begins in the fall. But, teachers and administrators regularly attend college courses and other professional learning throughout the summer in order to develop new skills, challenge their thinking, or gain a new endorsement. Over 70 staff members will attend training for cooperative learning, technology and project based learning during the next several weeks.
District office personnel are busy processing orders, paying bills, and preparing budgets. This is the time of year when employee benefits are determined and plans made for the open enrollment in the fall. Student data is reviewed and prepared for the upcoming year so that transitions from one grade to another happen smoothly. Reports for state and federal agencies are prepared and submitted.
So, what does the superintendent focus attention on during the summer? They focus is on all of these things and more. This summer includes a focus on potential improvements to our district facilities and developing action plans to address the multiple recommendations from community members for improving our district over the next several years. We do all of these things to create a place where all stakeholders want to be. We have work to do and a focus on the tasks in the present and the vision for the future will lead us to our goal.
— Deb Hamm is the superintendent of Newton USD 373.