A great first week back

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015

As area public schools complete their first week of school after a well-deserved summer break, it’s likely that students, teachers, administrators and parents are all breathing a collective sigh of relief. Now that the adrenaline rush of the first days back has begun to wear off, there might be some, even, who are checking the calendar to see when the next holiday comes along.

Early reports indicate that everything went pretty smoothly, which is kind of remarkable upon consideration, since there are thousands of people, scores of school buses and dozens of school buildings involved. Any number of frustrations, large and small, could have derailed efforts to get students back at their desks and re-focused on learning.

The fact that nothing major took place to cast a pall on the first week back at school owes itself to great planning, good attitudes and a modicum of flexibility by all the people involved — from students to parents to teachers to administrators.

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Especially important in these first days of the school year have been the principals who set the tone for each of their respective school buildings.

Most principals in the area returned to their jobs with years of experience from which to draw. But a few of them are new at those jobs this year, and we’ve been highlighting them for the past week or so on the pages of the Suffolk News-Herald. We want to give a special shout out here to those new principals and thank them for the part they played in a successful first week of the school year.

  • Ronald Leigh is new to King’s Fork High School, though he served as principal at Hillpoint Elementary School last year. We especially like what he had to say about being a principal: “Your presence has to be felt within the building.” Kids need to know their school’s leader is in charge and that he or she cares about them personally.
  • Catherine Pichon takes the reins at Hillpoint after 12 years in teaching and a few in administration. “I want to push myself to do better and impact more people,” she told a reporter last week. A principal who holds herself to high standards will do so with her young charges, and that’s a key part of the recipe for academic growth.
  • Kinsey Bynum’s education career has seen him take increasingly more responsibility in school systems from Suffolk to South Carolina. Regarding his current students at Turlington Woods, a place for students who’ve had problems at their regular schools, he said, “We don’t want them to like it here.” Ideally students at Turlington Woods should be rehabilitated and sent back to learn amongst their peers.
  • Jessica Avery steps up from assistant principal at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School to the top leadership position. She, too, believes in connecting with the children who attend her school. “If the kids trust you, if they know you care about them, everything else will fall into place,” she said last week. That’s good advice for anybody in education.
  • Over in Isle of Wight’s Carrollton Elementary School, Carla Berrier continues her rise in the educational field, after realizing she wanted to be a teacher while serving as a bank employee. “You get attached to your kids. They’re your kids,” she said this week. With that kind of attitude, Carrollton parents can be sure Berrier will be looking out for their children.

Congratulations to all of these new principals, to the new teachers and to the many returning teachers and administrators who worked together to make this a great first week of school.