Schools still hard at work during summer

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

By Ella Bronaugh


When students and parents think of high school, they no doubt think of the September through June academic year, but school operations do not end there.


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There are several 12-month employees at Nansemond River High School that work over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year, including Principal Daniel O’Leary, Assistant Principal Tara Worley, Graduation and E-Learning Coach Nicole Duplain, Administrative Assistant Kasey Smith and Discipline Secretary Tracey Goodman.

Nansemond River High School was darkened one morning last week, as the power was off due to the maintenance crew rewiring the air conditioning system. The administration could be found in the front office chatting and working, with country music playing faintly in the background.

The majority of their work over the summer goes into preparing for the upcoming academic year.

“A lot more goes on in the summer than people realize, such as logistics and planning,” O’Leary said. “It’s busy in a different way. There’s a lot of preparation for the next school year. We hire teachers, there are students leaving and entering; it’s nonstop. We develop a master schedule, we prepare for orientation, the building gets completely redone.

“We do a lot of summer cleaning — everything gets cleaned very thoroughly over the summer because we don’t have time to do it during the school year. They’ve been replacing our (air conditioning) for the past three to four weeks.”

The scheduling alone takes up a lot of the administrators’ time.

“Information gets put in the system. Then we go back and make corrections and figure out how many classes we need for each course and if we have enough teachers to teach it,” O’Leary said. “Sometimes, we have to hire new teachers or share teachers with another school. We build a master schedule, which we then go back and fix. So much is involved; it’s like a chess match. If you move one piece, everything is affected.”

The administration has also spent the summer coming up with the focus for the next academic year.

O’Leary said this year’s focus at Nansemond River will be what he calls “The Three R’s.”

They are Relation: establishing a rapport with kids and parents; Relevance: teaching things in the classroom that are relevant to real life; and Rigor: “School should be challenging — not difficult — but challenging,” O’Leary said.

There is, however, an upside to working over the summer.

“The Fridays,” Smith, the administrative assistant, said gleefully. The rest of the office as in agreement.

The 12-month employees in Suffolk Public Schools have 10-hour workdays Mondays through Thursdays during the summer, with Fridays off.

But they still  use their 40 hours wisely.

“I get to learn all of the students’ names before they get here, and then they wonder how I know who they are,” said Duplain, the graduation and e-learning coach. “I like being prepared and planning for the school year. It allows me to work with the students more effectively.”

Worley and O’Leary appreciate the chance summer gives them to rewind and relax.

“The school year is constant,” Worley explains, “Over the summer you can reflect and make some changes.”

O’Leary agreed. “It’s more relaxed, and everyday management is a lot less,” he said. “Having time to reflect is always nice.”