There was a lot of activity before school Aug. 12 at Midvale Elementary School in Tucker. Teachers stood outside greeting parents and students. Some parents photographed their children in front the school’s sign as other students raised the American flag for the first time for the new school year.
One parent blamed the tears in her son’s eyes on allergies while other parents could be seen returning to the school with electric fans to help with a brief air-conditioner outage.
Scenes similar these were repeated across the county as the 136 schools in the DeKalb County School District opened for the 2013-2014 academic year.
“We are ready. The children are ready. The parents are ready,” said Susan Wilson, Midvale’s principal. “We are also excited because we’re ready to start and get everything going, get into our routines and get into learning.”
Although the official first day of work was Aug. 5 for school employees, Wilson said, approximately 90 percent of Midvale’s teachers “have been here off and on all summer.”
“They are very dedicated staff,” Wilson said. “They want it to be completely ready when the kids walk into the door. And it is, generally.”
The school’s PTA worked the Saturday before school started to spruce up the property.
“Even though the yard looked pretty good, they decided it didn’t look good enough, so they came out Saturday and worked six hours cleaning,” Wilson said. “They are most dedicated to the things that happen at Midvale.”
Interim school Superintendent Mike Thurmond, who visited Midvale along with several other schools, said he felt like one of the students.
“I feel like a kid on the first day of school,” Thurmond said. “I feel like a first-grader. I am excited and happy and delighted to be here in DeKalb County.”
Thurmond said he was excited for two reasons.
“This is my first school opening but also because I know great things are occurring,” Thurmond said. “I know that we’ve been through some challenging times, but because of great leaders in our schoolhouses, our teachers and at the central office, we will overcome all the challenges and the great beneficiaries, of course, will be our children.
“This is going to be a great year,” Thurmond said. “We’re excited, we’re optimistic and I’m absolutely certain that this is going to be the best year ever in DeKalb County.”
Before visiting Magen Donnell’s first-grade class, Thurmond said his message to the students is “We love you. We support you. We have great leaders in our schools, great teachers, and we’re here to help you fulfill all of your dreams.”
Last school year, the DeKalb school district was placed on accreditation probation, the former superintendent was terminated, six school board members were suspended and replaced by the governor and the district faced a multi-million-dollar deficit.
“We learn from our mistakes and shortcomings, but we don’t dwell on them,” Thurmond said. “We’re moving in the right direction. SACS says we’re moving in the right direction. The great news is we’re out of the red, into the black. We’ve eliminated the deficit. Great days are ahead for the DeKalb school district.
“I think things are very positive right now,” Thurmond said. “We’re talking with our leaders in the schoolhouse. We’re going to be more supportive of our principals and teachers from the central office, focus more resources and attention to help them complete and be successful at our core business, which is teaching and learning.”
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