By CANDY WAYLOCK
NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Fulton County School System officials described a smooth opening for schools last Monday, while acknowledging a “few bumps in the road” as the doors to the 2013-2014 school year opened for nearly 95,000 students.
“When you think about the thousands of hours that are put into opening schools, I couldn’t be more proud of the work staff did all summer…whether it was getting the facilities ready, making sure we hired the right people, getting textbooks and technology into the buildings and making sure the buildings were clean,” said Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa.
As usual for a new school year, the small glitches were concentrated mainly in the transportation area as bus drivers navigate new routes and students learn their way from school to home and back.
“It was a good opening day…we had some little bumps in the road as usual [with] minor transportation issues and small things to track down,” said Avossa. “But the beauty of watching all the bright faces show up on the first day reminds us all why we’re here.”
In all, 784 buses comprise the fleet for Fulton Schools, some beginning their day as early as 5:40 a.m., and run 1,300 bus routes totaling 61,000 miles each day – two and a half times around the world.
Within the classroom, there were nearly 1,000 new students to Fulton Schools, along with 665 new teachers, 18 new principals and 29 new assistant principals. Most schools are opening fully staffed; however some vacancies remain in the special education department.
School officials noted effective hiring is a prime focus for Fulton Schools this year to ensure the best people are in place, primarily in the classroom.
“We challenged each of our principals to ‘hire hard’ and to find the best people they could from across the country,” said Scott Muri, deputy superintendent for academics.
That focus is also at the leadership level, with an intensive effort to ensure principals and assistant principals have a “clear vision” of the expectations they must meet. That emphasis on effectiveness is one reason 40 assistant principals in place this year were not in that position at the start of the last school year.
For the first time in many years, no new schools are coming on line, as the impact of nearly 20 years of intensive new construction has finally closed the gap between enrollment and capacity. The Capital Programs direction has now shifted its attention and budget to refurbishing existing schools and upgrading technology within the schools.
More than $55 million was spent over the summer on several major school renovations, technology upgrades and more than 4,000 other work requests.