Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Observations from the Bridge

What image come to your mind when you think about school? If you are like most, you probably consider classrooms full of children, teachers, and buildings. I think sometimes we take for granted those other aspects of our school system that are vital to the overall operation and the success that we have in raising student achievement. Everyone involved in the operation of the school is vital to ensuring that we are successful in 'Creating Learning Environments That Result in Success for All Students'. As we have settled into the routine of school, I spent some time looking around our district to see how exactly this team works together to accomplish this vital mission, no matter their role.

At the beginning of each school year, I like to ride the school buses. It is a good idea for me to check the routes so that on those cold dark January mornings when checking roads for drifts and ice, I know where the buses are going to be. I also like to see firsthand the size of the route, the number of passengers, and of course to chat up the drivers. It was through this observation that we quickly realized that Bus #7 was not large enough to handle the load and we changed the route to Bus #9. (Indeed a good sign of increasing enrollment!) But during this last week, I had the chance to see just how hard the job of bus driver is, and how their vocation is critical to the overall mission of our school district. You remember last week, don't you? It was HOT! While our school buildings are air conditioned, the school buses are not. Our drivers took the time to make sure that all the windows were down in the buses and that they delivered their passengers as quickly and safely as possible. I also saw great care and compassion for their precious cargo, I was very impressed that the drivers know the names of each of their charge-young people who are only on the bus for an average of 20 minutes a day. 

"School buildings are air conditioned?", you say. Not so fast. One area of the school that is not air conditioned is the kitchen. Guess what? It was HOT in there too! During my walk-through of the buildings on those days, a pass by or through the kitchen was greeted with a blast of hot air. How many complaints do you think I got about how hot the kitchen was? None. That's right. The kitchen staff had smiles on their faces and mostly a spring in their step. They recognized the importance and the vital role that they play in ensuring that our young students have a nutritious meal to keep them going. Learning, after all is hard work and burns up calories.

Yep, our buildings are air conditioned-except when they are not. Ironically the building you would expect to give the least amount of trouble was actually the worst. It was a real struggle to keep the high school cooled due to a heat exchange plate that was on the fritz, and it mostly felt like we were fighting a losing battle. (Some would probably argue that we did lose that battle.) But nonetheless we hung in there and had help from Hudson Hardware Plumbing and Heating (who manually cooled the plates), and our maintenance staff pulling out all the stops to make sure that the lines of communication were always open and that we were truly doing everything that we could.

Speaking of maintenance and custodial staff-its a wonder they don't turn and walk the other way when they see me coming. I almost always have something else that I want to have cleaned or fixed (either right now or yesterday). But without fail, they are always up to the task at hand. Last week I asked for an air conditioner to be installed in one of the elementary classrooms, and almost before I had a chance to tell the teacher it was on the way it was already installed. This staff has a very tough job because everybody wants them to do something for them RIGHT NOW, and unfortunately that is just impossible. But they are efficient, effective, and extremely hard working. If it weren't for those efforts we would be in a world of hurt in a lot of areas!

Then there is the group of folks that keep the whole thing running smooth. This group makes sure that students are in class, that teachers have what they need, and are able to calm down an angry parent or sooth a frightened kindergartner on that first day of school. I am talking of course about the secretarial staff. Everyone in the district knows that if you want to get something done you take it to the building secretary.

In all, we have had an awesome start to the 2013-2014 school year, despite the very hot end to the month of August. We can attribute that start to the hard work of countless professionals-from those that work in the classrooms with the students to those that keep our buildings clean. Thank you all so much for your commitment and dedication to the Hudson Community School District!

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