Nye County Schools Superintendent Dale Norton reported no major problems following the first full week of the 2013 fall semester.
Norton spent most of his time traveling to various schools throughout the vast district.
He said that Pahrump Valley High School (PVHS) had one of the few polished openings he’s witnessed during his time as the district’s top administrator.
“I started out on Monday at our high school. I was there for about an hour and a half and it was one of the smoothest openings that I have seen. There were only about 20 students who needed schedules. There were a few holes in the schedules but we had some volunteers who were helping out. The counseling staff got everything put together and they got those students in class within the first couple of hours of the day. It was very smooth and accommodating for the students, the parents and the staff,” he said.
PVHS Principal Max Buffi provided a special message to all new and returning students to the school this year.
“It is with a great deal of enthusiasm that I begin my sixth year at Pahrump Valley High School and welcome you to the 2013-14 school year. My assistants and I have been busy this summer planning the schedule to accommodate a projected 1,200 students on the first day of school. We are proud to offer programs, activities and opportunities for students which nurture their gifts and challenge them to grow. My hope is that all students will come to school daily, do well in all their classes and follow the rules here at school. Dress code will be enforced for compliance, as this helps to contribute to the learning process for students. Our excellent staff of teachers, counselors, administrators and support personnel at PVHS is dedicated to helping students develop, and achieve their individual goals,” he said.
The high school aside, Norton said that there are a few additional challenges to take care of when younger students begin their first day of school as noted when he visited J.G. Johnson Elementary School in Pahrump.
“The elementary school was really bustling with all the students and parents. It was much the same at Rosemary Clarke Middle School where I got to participate while the kids were having their lunch. Amargosa School was also very organized and they were off and running with their first day procedures. They had gone through all of their routines with the little ones. At the close of the day I went to Beatty and spoke to the staff. I got to talk to some of the students as they were getting on their bus and all was well there,” he said.
Norton spent Tuesday visiting northern Nye County Schools where he noted the enrollment at one northern high school actually doubled compared to last year.
“I went to Gabbs and we have five or six seniors there this year, which is a huge class because they only had one last year. They more than doubled and they were all excited about having such a large class graduating and they made sure to ask if I was coming to their graduation,” he said.
While there were no real issues at the various school sites last week, one problem occurred at the district level.
Asst. Superintendent Dr. Kim Friel said that an Internet tool used by administrators, teachers and parents experienced some technical glitches and created unforeseen problems last week.
PowerSchool is a web-based information system where teachers are able to record grades and attendance for parents and students to view at home.
Friel noted that district officials were working most of last week to fix the system.
“It just keeps turning off and our two technicians have been working on it. One was here last week with me until 11 p.m. trying to get it running. That has been our biggest issue which is to ensure that the student schedules are correct in the computer where they should be. That of course rolls down to the individual schools where the staff and administrators view their schedules and enrollments. The data is only as good as what we put in. We are also having a problem with the vendor but we are getting that ironed out. We still of course get our physical counts so we kind of know where we are,” she said.
Norton, meanwhile, said that Fridays are especially important in terms of learning how many students are attending classes throughout the district.
Though an official count day is expected to take place later this month, Norton lamented that he expects a lower attendance rate again this year.
“On Friday we actually count who is there, who has been in class and that will give us our numbers. It appears that right now we are down a little bit, particularly in the Pahrump attendance area,” he said.
Full-day kindergarten is a brand new program for Nye County schools beginning this semester
During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved $30 million in additional state funding to expand full-day kindergarten programs in Nevada.
The state has already funded full-day kindergarten programs at more than one hundred at-risk schools in Nevada for roughly eight years.
Friel said she also visited a few local schools to see the debut of the program up close.
“Those little ones were so cute. They were learning how to properly walk down the hallways. There was one student who told me that he was so tired because they were not used to attending classes all day. They were still so excited to learn. For me, it was the hit of the morning,” she said.
On the issue of curriculum, Friel said that no major changes have been implemented at the middle or high school level but younger students will see a slight change in some areas, such as penmanship.
“Our district was using three different programs and we are trying to align it to just one. The three programs were very different and our kids were taught curl a ‘T’ or not curl it. We wanted it to be more standardized. We now have a more traditionalized handwriting program that fits real world needs. Kindergarten, first and second grade is where we deal with handwriting,” she said.
Rosemary Clarke Middle School will continue its SAFE club this semester.
The program provides students with academic assistance and enrichment activities.
New this year will be a session program known as Read 180 and Credit Recovery.
Enrichment activities start at 4 p.m. and may include recreational sports, computers, art, music and more.
Students are to be picked up from SAFE in the teachers’ lounge no later than 5 p.m.
Parents who have questions about SAFE may contact Mrs. Kunzi at 727-5546 extension 4129.