NORTON — At its first meeting after schools opened for a new academic year, Norton School Board Monday was greeted with another packed house but, this time, good news brought them there.
Controversy over its embattled longtime football coach has claimed attention in recent months, but this week the room was filled with young boys and girls whose athletic accomplishments in spring sports were recognized.
The board also welcomed a slew of new staff at both schools and heard from one veteran high school teacher about how positive he and others felt as school opened.
With seven new staff members and two new administrators at Burton High School, math teacher Robert Fultz told the board, everyone worked together and returning staff did a good job of welcoming and helping to acclimate the new arrivals.
The good feelings started on approaching the high school that morning, where, as usual, Fultz said, he happened to be on bus duty for the first day back at school. He's marking his ninth year.
When you pull by the building, he said, you see new fencing along Kentucky Avenue and are immediately greeted with a freshly paved parking lot with painted lines.
Inside, problems created by flooding downstairs in the band room have been repaired, new carpet has been installed and the band room looks great, he said.
In classrooms, Fultz continued, the geek in him loves new laptops and Promethean boards. He also appreciates having student Chromebooks in his classroom. At one point, the computers had gone home with students in a one-to-one initiative, but that had downsides, he said.
With them now in his classroom, Fultz said, students never can say they've left them at home or that they aren't charged. The bank of computers in his room are always charged, he noted, and it's one less thing students cram into their lockers.
They may not get to take them home any more, he said, but he also doesn't see that changing how he handles his classes and students.
Kids were excited about new tables in the cafeteria and other changes in the building. For example, new tables in a science classroom were set for students to sit in a pod. In the real world, he said, problems don't get solved by one person and companies hire teams of people.
"If we can develop team skills in classrooms it's a big plus," he said.
He thanked the board for the improvements and for helping steer Norton City Schools to some good things.
The board also heard from teacher Anu Godsey about her experience in a globally competitive summer arts program. Godsey said she was a beta tester for a National Gallery of Arts program launched for teachers. She was accepted into a weeklong summer institute centered on strengthening thinking through art.
Godsey described for the board various activities and field trips, what she gained from them and how she might use what she learned in her classroom.
Board member Carol Caruso noted Godsey's accomplishment in being accepted to the institute from among worldwide competition.
Superintendent Gina Wohlford also commended Godsey's effort.
The board approved its two student representatives to the board, senior Madison Bohnert and junior Isaiah Kinser.
Wohlford also advised the board of pending reorganization of a long list of strategic planning and superintendent committees that meet throughout the year, including ones on equity, health and wellness, budget, calendar, facilities, transportation, technology, special education and innovation.
While details of the division's crisis management plans for its two schools are confidential, Wohlford advised the two plans follow state mandates and were being fine-tuned following recent walk-throughs and input from the city's police chief and emergency management staff.
She also reported that opening enrollment was 775 and had grown to 780 on Monday. It's trending the same as last year, she said, and "we're very pleased."
Kindergarten numbers are pretty big, which is both gratifying and important, she said, because those kids hopefully will stay with the city system throughout their school years.