Today is the first day back to school for Glasgow Independent Schools students, but teachers had their first day back on Tuesday, beginning with a breakfast and opening ceremony at Glasgow Middle School.

Superintendent Sean Howard welcomed back the room full of teachers and staff, and said he wanted to get the school year started in a positive manner.

“Our students deserve as many opportunities as we can provide them,” Howard said. “Quality opportunities, provided in a meaningful way, and opportunities that we can sustain.”

He talked about the financial struggles that most school districts in the commonwealth have been going through, including GIS.

“It has been a challenge, and we are not out of the woods, but we have done things to tighten our belts, to be more accountable, to show we are good stewards of our finances,” he said. “In all of the finance crisis, the primary focus still is the servicing of our students. That is one thing that I think we all do very well, we take that very seriously. I really do not see that this has had a negative impact on student achievement, and that’s what it’s been all about.”

Enrollment numbers were also touched on during his opening speech.

Not including preschool, the 2014 school year ended with about 2,016 students. As of Tuesday, there are about 2,070 to 2,080 students enrolled for this school year, Howard said.

He said it may be the case that there are 50 no-shows, but that it has been a very long time since the district has had those numbers before the start of a school year.

The truth of the matter is they are a growing district, and everyone contributes to that, Howard said.

He emphasized the importance of everyone in the room, and the impact each individual had on the students within the district.

“When you smile, make eye contact, when you make a student feel good about themselves, what does that cost?” Howard asked. “We all know what things make children feel better.”

Students need to feel safe, they need to be recognized for doing good deeds, he said.

Howard also pointed out several things to celebrate about the new school year:

At the end of the last school year, GIS had 160 preschool students;

South Green Elementary has had substantial growth in the past years. At the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, there were 320 students at SGE. At the end of 2014 school year, there were 423 students;

Highland Elementary School’s academic team won district last school year, and crowned state Beta Club champions in the group talent category. They are now entering the Leader in Me program as well;

The 21st Century program at GMS has been excelling at the after-school program. There are a lot of extra-curricular programs available compared to four-to-five years ago. Teachers that are very willing to work with kids and make it so school has relevance;

GHS became a top-performing high school in the commonwealth, with an ACT composite score of 21.5 for the 2012-13 school year, and the 2013-14 school year the ACT composite score was 21.3. Also, the student drop-out rates have gone down significantly in the past years. In 2008-09, there were 22 dropouts recorded, in 2012-13 there were seven dropouts and in 2014, there were only three dropouts.

School board Chairwoman Elaine Richardson spoke a few words about the new school year as well.

“It’s an honor for me to extend my welcome on behalf of the Glasgow Board of Education as we start this new school year,” Richardson said. “As we begin a new school year, I think all of us are looking for a source of guidance and inspiration.”

Richardson shared a portion of a prayer for education that she said was sent to her a few years ago.

“I hope that all of you have a wonderful school year and we are privileged to serve you on the board of education, and wish you well,” Richardson said.

Individuals who have been in the district for 20, or more years were recognized for their services, as well as school bus drivers who have had successful and safe years of driving.

School principals were then asked to come forward to introduce new staff members and teachers they have.

Door prizes were given away, but with a little twist.

Howard had written questions from two different categories and placed them in two piles, music and common sense. Names of teachers and staff members were drawn and those chosen came up and chose one of the two categories and had to answer the question correctly before receiving their prize.

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