Switzerland County school year is officially underway

Switzerland County School students officially returned to the classroom today (Thursday), as the 2018-2019 school year gets underway.

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Switzerland County School students officially returned to the classroom today (Thursday), as the 2018-2019 school year gets underway.
Teachers and staff reported for orientation and meetings on Tuesday; and then yesterday (Wednesday) teachers held a work day in preparation for the arrival of students. Both Switzerland County Elementary and Jefferson-Craig Elementary held open house last night, giving students and parents the opportunity to visit classrooms and meet teachers and staff.
If someone is wondering what’s new for this school year, it starts as the top, as Rod Hite returns to his boyhood home as the new Superintendent of Schools after a stint as the Principal of South Ripley High School. He replaces Mike Jones, who retired at the end of last school year.
And as he looks to begin his first year running the corporation, Hite points out that there are other familiar faces in new places as the year gets started.
“Obviously there are new faces in administration, with David Todd and Mark Boggs at the high school and John Druba out at East Enterprise,” Hite said. “We also have teachers who are in new grade levels; we’ve had teachers move buildings, and we’ve had some new hires, so there’s a lot of new faces throughout the district at different levels. I think everybody’s pretty excited to kick off the new year.”
As for the year getting underway, the superintendent said that drop off procedures at all of the buildings are remaining the same, so parents shouldn’t have issues.
“The one thing I would want all parents to realize is, they may not be used to buses being on the roads, so make sure they’re leaving for work a little early and give themselves time. Buses are going to slow traffic down. That may take a week or two to get into that routine, if they’re not used to having school-age kids in the house.”
Hite said that the beginning of the school year will be pretty normal, noting that orientation for students at the middle school and also for incoming freshmen at the high school have already been held, bringing students up to speed on how things will run.
Hite said that beginning a new year involves many different people all doing their jobs to make sure things are set to go.

New teachers
As the Switzerland County school year gets underway, teachers and staff held an orientation on Tuesday morning at Switzerland County High School. New teachers in the corporation this year include, from left: Kim Rosen, Amanda Davis, Russell Sanders, MaKenzie Deamron, and Katie Temple. Today (Thursday) is the first day for students for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Things are coming together,” the superintendent said. “The grounds are looking good. The custodians have done a great job of getting the buildings together, and I think that one of the big changes will be that come September they are going to redo all of the playground mulch at East Enterprise. It’s been pea gravel for years, and now it’s going to go to mulch. That’s actually a requirement. Anything above five feet has to have fiber mulch now. It can be wood or rubber, but it can’t be pea gravel.”
And, in the midst of all of the changes, it has to be exciting for Hite, who returns to run the school corporation that he graduated from.
“It is, it really is,” Hite said of his new job. “I mean it’s been a great two months just getting back into the swing of things down here. Reconnecting with people I’ve known. Getting to know some people that I didn’t know when I left who have moved into the community. Everybody from the community foundation to the endowment board. All of those things have happened since I’ve been gone, so everybody’s been very positive about working with the school and how we can work together. That’s been a great orientation for me coming in.”
So, what types of philosophies does the new superintendent hold to?
“I say with every staff I’ve ever had. I always tell them, ‘teachers: you work for the students and I work for you. It’s only when you stop working for the students that you start working with me, and it becomes uncomfortable’,” Hite said. “I’ve instilled that and repeated that to each of my principals. That’s the type of leadership that I expect. They need to work for the teachers, and the teachers work for the students. If we always make our decisions student-first, obviously we’re going to be in a better situation down the road. Obviously when you make those decisions, at my level, you’re making them for 1,460 students, and sometimes I have to go with the majority as opposed to the one or the two, and that can make for some tough decisions, but at the same time we do whatever’s right for the kids whenever possible. I’ve always been that way in education.”
Hite also said that there are big changes coming for school corporation’s at the state and federal levels.
He said that the biggest change coming is how school budgets are organized.
Typically the school corporation’s budgets up to now contained seven line items, but those have now been reduced as of January 1st, 2019, to basically two main line items.
“They’re taking general fund, capital projects — all of those common terms that you hear in education — away and we’re having an education fund and an operations fund,” Hite said. “It doesn’t mean that we’re receiving any more money, it just gives what legislators right now are hoping is a little more flexibility in how some of that money can be spent.”
The superintendent said that some people may not fully understand that there’s a difference between student — which we call ADM (average daily attendance) —money, which is funded off of sales tax; and capital projects money, which comes from county property taxes.
“This gives us, supposedly, a little more flexibility, but that remains to be seen, because they are still writing it as they go,” Hite said. “There will be board resolutions coming down at the end of the year, in December, and statewide every school’s budget changes in January, so that’s a big undertaking right now for every superintendent.”