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    Central Staff Engage in Large-Scale Planning to Prepare for Start of School
    Posted on 09/04/2018
    Two staff in the warehouse prepare boxes for shipment

    Central Staff Engage in Large-Scale Planning to Prepare for Start of School

    As students and families gear up for another school year, the Start of School team at the John Stanford Center get together to finalize the details for the first day of school for over 53,000 students in our district. They have been working throughout the year for a seamless start, so when students at Seattle Public Schools (SPS) walk through school doors at 104 sites; classrooms will be staffed and equipped with essential supplies that range from laptops, desktop computers, custodial supplies, furniture to a wide array of learning materials.

    The first day of school is an exciting time, but it can also be a day filled with jitters for students and their families. “Who will my teacher be?”, “Will I like my new teacher?”, “What will my child eat for lunch?”, “What will my child learn?”, and “What will my child’s classroom look like?” are some of the questions that students and parents may have.

    Those questions are not isolated to students and families. The Start of School Team is made up of dedicated district staff across multiple divisions who seek to answer these questions year-round. Many of them were educators or principals, and most them are parents with children attending SPS. For the team, the work carries personal meaning and relevance.

    “The work the Start of School team does is expansive,” said Michael Tolley, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. “The planning and strategizing behind preparing for the first day of school each year is to provide safe, healthy and welcoming environments for students, their families and staff. The extensive work that takes place is to ensure that every student is successful.”

    Multiple divisions gather to align their efforts and staff, and they meet weekly. Overseeing this work are: Enrollment Planning, Budget, Human Resources, Capital Projects, Facilities, School Operations and School Leaders, but nearly every division in the district office is involved at some point in the process. “We all work together. We are committed to open schools that are prepared for every student and teacher. Before the first day of school, we strive to have everything in place,” said Misa Garmoe, director of school operations.

    Enrollment Planning and School Leaders focus on preparation around classroom sizes that are equitable and adhere to state expectations. This requires consistent monitoring of school enrollment numbers throughout the year. Many factors affect enrollment numbers, and their work affects the rest of the details that follow.

    As Enrollment Planning submits their numbers, the Budget Office begins to allocate appropriate resources to meet students’ needs. The Budget Office plays a key role in assuring that the number of students projected by Enrollment Planning will have the materials they need to have a successful school year.

    As the Budget Division assesses funding, the Human Resources Division centers their work on staffing each classroom in the district with a high-quality teacher. The summer is the peak time for the Human Resources Division as they actively recruit, hire and prepare educators; they also coordinate schedules and classrooms across all 104 schools in the district.

    The work of the Capital Projects and Facilities Division is integral. They are responsible for preparing classrooms, buildings and fields for all students to walk into on the first day of school. This year alone, these two divisions facilitated the opening of two school buildings, EC Hughes and Loyal Heights, and prepared 41 new classrooms across the district.

    In addition to facilities preparation, they also identify the appropriate learning materials, technology and furniture needed for every classroom, and rely on the numbers that Enrollment Planning provided to maintain accuracy. A vital team of warehouse crew transport these supplies to and from the John Stanford Center to 104 school sites. Gary Deitz, manager of distribution services, explained that his team works 10-hour shifts and into the weekend to accomplish their goal of supplying each school and classroom. “We will work every Saturday,” Deitz said. The scale of supplies Deitz and his team transport range from 31 computer carts to 200+ pallets of science kits, in addition to numerous desktop computers, laptops, textbooks, dry and frozen food.

    The level of detail that goes into planning for the first day of each school year is immense. And the cooperation and flow of all moving parts culminates into the first day of school for all SPS students and families with the goal that students and families have a positive, inviting experience. The core of the district’s work is around supporting student learning, and the district remains committed to improving systems district-wide to support academic outcomes and meet students’ needs.

    As the school year begins, the work for the Start of School team begins to pick up again. “We begin the planning now for the 2019-2020 school year,” said Garmoe. “Our work is ongoing and continuously improving. We want to be prepared for any student that walks through our doors.”