Column: Wheels of education keep turning all summer

Early in my educational career, when June rolled around, my father would always ask, “So, what are you going to do all summer?” Great question. There are as many answers to that question, as there are employees in our district. When the formal school year ends, the business of running school districts changes – but it does not cease.

Ed Saxton

Ed Saxton

Most students have summer plans; a significant number of those plans involve family and, oddly enough, a great deal of the balance involves our schools and our staff. June is a busy month for marching band and for athletic and academic opportunities. Coaches and advisers have spent extra time planning, and they hope to create quality experiences for student growth in June, July, and August.

From an educational perspective, our district continues to encourage reading as a quality summer endeavor. Our summer school program, Academic Stretch, starts after July 4 and runs for two consecutive three-week periods. Our students and parents have the option of attending the first session, the second session, or even both sessions. These are family decisions that generally revolve around need and availability.

But what else happens around the district in the “summer?” Building hours change and many employees who work alternative shifts during the school year are now on days. Custodial and maintenance activity is more likely to occur during a traditional day, and employees who may work in small groups during the year are now part of a larger team with a goal of having our buildings ready in the fall. Of course, this is accomplished at the same time we offer camps and summer school. It is not just the buildings that need consistent attention but our grounds and fields as well.

At the bus garage, safety checks and fleet work continue to be a priority, and a limited number of drivers will be in action during Academic Stretch. The fall planning will begin later in July with the goal of bringing quality service to our families in the 2013-2014 school year.

Even though some of our office professionals have fewer hours at this time of year, many of our people are year-round employees and work during the summer months. For example, for the next three months, the district office is open Monday through Thursday, and Friday by appointment, to allow for some flexibility with staff. Each building in the district has a form of adjusted hours. Our desire is to continue to be available in some form while the majority of our students are gone.

What do our principals do in the summer? Our principals spend time thinking about programming and how to better serve their students in the fall. Many will be involved in professional development activities designed to increase efficacy as an instructional leader. Some will attend activities along with our teaching staff to increase the probability of success next year.

An interesting group to observe, if you can keep up, are those who coordinate technology. Most of us understand staying ahead of the curve in the digital world can be a daunting task. Multiply that need exponentially by adding about 5,000 clients who range in age from three to 65, and you have the world that we ask our “techies” to manage. Ironically, they welcome the challenge and the opportunity to set the pace.

Add teachers to our list and the diversity of summer activity expands in every direction imaginable. Perhaps that is why many of us had to annually write the what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation paper. Is it really vacation – or just a significant change in routine?

Another good question.

When my father says, “So, what do you district folks do when the kids go home?” I am tempted to say, “Not much; we just hang around and wait for them to come back in the fall.” The danger is, at age 91, he might believe me. Please have an eventful, fun, and educational summer.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent of the St. Francis School District.

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