August 10, 2018
School & Youth
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  • “I love the quiet and the peacefulness. It gives you time to really think things through and research, plan,” said Julie Little-McVearry, the incoming principal of Lake Shore Elementary.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    “I love the quiet and the peacefulness. It gives you time to really think things through and research, plan,” said Julie Little-McVearry, the incoming principal of Lake Shore Elementary.
  • Joyce Treas is the chief custodian at Lake Shore Elementary. During the summer, custodians clean every inch of the school from the ceilings down to the floors.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    Joyce Treas is the chief custodian at Lake Shore Elementary. During the summer, custodians clean every inch of the school from the ceilings down to the floors.
  • “My favorite part of the summer is trying to see where we are and then make those decisions that are going to get us to the next step,” said Jeffrey Haynie, principal of Solley Elementary.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    “My favorite part of the summer is trying to see where we are and then make those decisions that are going to get us to the next step,” said Jeffrey Haynie, principal of Solley Elementary.
  • Riviera Beach Elementary Principal Jason Anderson poses with Bridget Graves, one of the school’s custodians.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    Riviera Beach Elementary Principal Jason Anderson poses with Bridget Graves, one of the school’s custodians.

You’re Not In School, But Someone Is

Maya Pottiger
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July 10, 2018

School Is Never Really Out For Summer

When Alice Cooper wailed “school’s out for summer,” he was referring to only a portion of the school’s occupants.

Though students — and, for the most part, teachers — are gone, schools are still open and full of activity during the summer months.

The office staff, assistant principal, principal and custodial crew make up the group of people that come back day after day during the summer — though the work week is shortened to four days, with the entire school system shutting down on Fridays.

“It’s quiet, and I start to miss the kids around this time,” said Solley Elementary Principal Jeffrey Haynie, one week into the summer break. “It’s kind of like when you have your own kids and you’re like, ‘I need a little break,’ and then you miss them and can’t wait for them to come back.”

The three-month break is largely used to prepare for the upcoming school year: planning, promoting, scheduling and cleaning.

The cultural arts staff is often shared between schools, as the schedule is based on the number of kids and classes each school has, said incoming Lake Shore Principal Julie Little-McVearry.

“The administrators work with one another to coordinate schedules for cultural arts team once they’ve all been assigned,” Little-McVearry said.

“It’s like a big puzzle trying to place 33 teachers,” Haynie said.

Principals do a lot of data analysis over the summer. They go over different statistics from the previous school year to figure out which areas need to be improved, and from there, come up with a school improvement plan, which details how they’re going to target the identified areas.

“That plan is really focused on the kind of strategies we’re going to put in place, as well as the supports we put in place, how we do business to meet the needs of all of our students,” said Riviera Beach Elementary Principal Jason Anderson. “Those students that are performing exceptionally high, how do we challenge them and make sure they’re getting what they need, as well as the students that are needing additional support and intervention.”

There are also professional development courses provided by the school district that office staff, teachers and administrators can take to improve their skills.

Perhaps the biggest project in each school is the deep cleaning that gets done over the summer. Classrooms are emptied, and every inch of the school from the ceilings down to the floors gets cleaned — even the furniture.

“[The custodial crew] works very, very hard,” Little-McVearry said. “There are times when these custodians work in non-air-conditioned facilities to make this happen before the school year.”

Though they aren’t required to keep regular hours, the teachers often can’t stay away all summer.

At Riviera Beach, one of the teachers started a book club for students to stop by and stayed connected to both their school and teachers. There’s also a weekly art club where students can paint outside the school at easels.

Little-McVearry uses this time to get to know her new staff and pick their brains about topics.

“It allows us to bounce ideas off of each other without feeling rushed,” Little-McVearry said. “I’m always under the gun to get something done, but in the summer, things are more laid back and you have a whole lot of flexibility in your schedule.”

Haynie said he invites different staff members in for meetings so they can be part of the planning process and make it more collaborative.

“Teachers don’t stay away. They’re always coming and going, always coming in to check on us,” Haynie said. “Sometimes they bring us snowballs. Those are nice.”

Though the peace and quiet can be optimal to get work done, Anderson said he “doesn’t particularly like it.”

“I enjoy the kids. I like getting around the building and seeing everyone and helping people. It’s different work in the summer. It’s necessary work, but I prefer the school year when there’s lots going on,” Anderson said. “It’s welcomed time to get things done, but at the same time, the reason why I went into this work was to work with the kids and the staff.”

Little-McVearry said her favorite part of the empty school is that she doesn’t feel rushed.

“That’s a nice feeling because being a principal can be very a stressful job. You’re constantly going, so it’s nice to be able to breathe for a minute,” Little-McVearry said. “But the emails still keep coming.”


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