Butler Avenue School principal Robert Turlington looked at the clock, took a deep breath, and started the beginning of a new school year, as students returned Monday morning.
Turlington, like the many principals across Sampson County, arrived earlier and took one last walk around the school before the students arrived and reminded his staff that “it is going to be a great year.”
Students in traditional schools across North Carolina, including Sampson County Schools and Clinton City Schools, returned for the 2017-18 school year.
According to Dr. Stuart Blount, superintendent for Clinton City Schools, the first morning back at school went smoothly, with no major issues reported. As he made his way around to the district’s five schools, he says he saw lots of eager smiles on the many faces of the students.
“It’s great to see those empty halls full with students again,” Blount said.
Teachers returned to the classroom a week earlier, attending workshops and training sessions throughout the week, preparing their minds for the year to come. In between lessons, they were busy in their classrooms preparing for the students to return Monday.
“Our staff has done a tremendous job preparing and planning for our students to return,” Blount praised. “Everyone has started eager for a new school year.”
Like Blount, Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent of Sampson County Schools, recognized the staff, especially the work of custodians, for having buildings ready throughout Sampson County.
“Our buildings look beautiful,” Bracy said. “Our custodians did a great job preparing our buildings for our students and staff. Our floors are shiny and everything is in order.”
Bracy added that it’s a great opening day for the district. He commended the work of principals for selecting educators for students.
“Our new teachers are excited and focused,” he said. “We anticipate this year being our best ever.”
Many students were either starting school for the first time or entering a new school, and the look of worry and concern shone across their faces. Throughout the county, at each school, the staff was ready to help those students ease into the first day.
Down in the southern end of the county, Union Elementary School held its “Million Father March” with dads bringing their children to school. Principal Dr. Linda J. Carr said the tradition was exciting and invigorating. Union was one of many schools throughout the United States that used the back-to-school initiative created by The Black Star Project. One goal of the Million Father March is to get more dads engaged in the education process.
On Monday, several local churches volunteered. This year was Union’s first time welcoming students after they stepped off the bus.
“It’s a real exciting time to have them back at school,” Carr said. “We are back in the business of serving our purpose.”
When it comes to education, one of Carr’ favorite phrases is “We are learning to read and we are reading to learn.”
In Autryville, Clement Elementary School is looking forward to the 2017-2018 academic year too after the summer break.
“It’s always better when we have our kids in the building,” said Principal James Mullins. “I’m looking forward to a great school year. Last year we had great student achievement and we have great parents, a great community and a wonderful staff and teachers here.”
As a school, Mullins said the purpose is to make a difference in the lives of students.
“We’re hoping that we can help each and every kid here be at grade level, be successful and have a great school year,” he said.
Last school year, 86 percent of students were on grade level when it came to composite test scores for proficiency. This year, the goal is 90 percent. The ultimate goal is to be at 100 percent.
“We’re edging close to 90 percent,” he said.”But we’re not satisfied with that. We want every kid to be successful and show growth.”
Stephen Ameen is one many teachers ready to help with that goal. This year marks his first year at Clement Elementary as a third-grade teacher, after providing remediation services at Union Intermediate. His journey to Clement involved several mentors.
“All the kids here are really great and the people I’m working with are making really good to transition into the school,” Ameen said.
Pam Godwin, Clement Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, began the school year by going over goal, expectations, agendas and reading plans.
“I like being back at school and getting kids motivated for the new year,” Godwin said. “I like getting to know the kids, building a relationship and seeing them progress to become better students by the end of the year.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter or Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.