Back to the grind

Haywood County teachers, staff gear up for new year
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Aug 19, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Riverbend Elementary School teachers gather in the Media Center on Monday morning to kick off the 2014-15 school year. All Haywood County School employees reported back to school Monday for mandated work days. The first day of school is Aug. 20.

Summer is officially over for Haywood County teachers and staff now that they have reported back to school to commence the 2014-15 school year with mandated work days for all school employees.

The workdays, Aug. 18-19, required all 10-month school employees to return to school, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and clerical employees. Whether the staff were going over schedule changes, new policies, or setting up their classrooms — everyone is buckling down to be ready for first day of school on Aug. 20.

The first day of school will be an early dismissal day, which will release students at noon. The rest of the week, Aug 21-22, will be set on a normal, full-day schedule.

Bill Nolte, associate superintendent for Haywood County schools, said there were lots of new things to look for this year that will focus on ways to improve communication between children and parents.

“That’s one of our big things on our agenda,” Nolte said about enhancing communication. “We’re trying to enhance communications between students and parents using 21 century tools. We think we can do all the things we talked about without spending a lot of money. That technology is in place, we just need to update and use it.”

One of the ways the school is planning to promote communication is through a Parent Portal — a tool that was offered to parents last year as a way to access their child’s information online.

“Parents can login and see a lot of information about their child from their home computers — whether it’s grades, attendance, and sometimes assignments,” Nolte said. “We really want to encourage parents to access portal this year if they haven’t yet. We started it last year and got a pretty good response, but this year we’d like to have majority parents use it.”

Another way the school is stepping up its communication is by expanding its rapid notification process to include email and text messaging alerts rather than just a voicemail message.

“There may be some parents who prefer to get a text message, and so over the first month of school the schools will be introducing these things to parents and asking about expanding that capacity,” Nolte said.

The schools website is also going to become more standardized to make all the information more accessible to parents in one place.

“We have 16 schools and in the past, they have all had their own web design,” Nolte said. “When looking for your contact link to send to a teacher, it would take you to another place. This fall, we’ll be standardizing websites so that when you go to a website all the school information all be in the same place.”

In addition, the school system is looking into ways to share more information via Twitter and Facebook.

According to Nolte, the school would like to give parents the option to follow specific schools on Facebook and Twitter and receive school news updates on the live feed.

“We hope that before the year is over, you can follow each school on Facebook or Twitter, and see whenever a school posts an announcement,” Nolte said. “If there’s an announcement about a school dance or report card, that would be published on Facebook or Twitter and you wouldn’t have to rely on a text message or email.”