Tips to make next back-to-school easier
At the start of each school year, administrators can expect to hear the incessant ringing of the telephone as they are bombarded with calls from media houses. Quite predictably, news reporters are making enquiries about the level of preparedness for the new academic year. They all ask the same question: "What challenges are you experiencing on the first day of the academic year?"
School administrators must seek to reduce the likelihood of having to give a negative report. We are quite aware of the pre-requisites for a smooth commencement but this aide memoire should erase the need for school leaders to be in a quandary and should empower them to start the year in a stress-free environment.
To the extent that the budget will allow, try to do the refurbishing projects from May onwards. There is no need to proffer the excuse that students and staff are likely to be disturbed by workmen, because the work can be done after school and on weekends. Corporate entities do their refurbishing at nights and on weekends and have no major challenge. When refurbishing work is left until August, it puts too much pressure on resources and personnel and, needless to say, tardy workmen will plunge the school into a state of unpreparedness.
Conduct inventory audit in the Easter break. Do not leave it for the summer months when some of the support staff would be on leave. Additionally, an early audit will facilitate arrangement for the replacement of tools, equipment and furniture, before August.
Forward planning is the hallmark of a successful institution and so this is a principle that principals should embrace. Do not wait for classes to resume before conducting meetings since this can only hamper the teaching/learning activities. It is advisable to get all meetings out of the way before school re-opens in September. Have the relevant meetings to accomplish the following:
- orientation of staff
- orientation of new students
- arrange for the distribution of textbooks
- departmental session to evaluate and modify academic programme
- conduct sixth form interviews
- professional development session to ensure that everyone hits the track running
- discussion with board of governors to ensure a team approach in the adherence to policies and guidelines
- assess and interview repeaters
- selection of head students and prefects
- training for Student Leaders
- final evaluation of school improvement plan
- agreeing action plans
- agreeing school calendar
- recruiting, interviewing, employing and formalising appointment of staff in early August
- revisiting senior staff job descriptions
- formalising all business arrangements with service providers
- renew contracts and revise, modify or restate policies and guidelines with security manager and canteen concessionaire
- agree timetable for garbage collection.
- Have the deployment team agree the timetable format
- Commence timetabling teachers from May
- Have individual timetables ready for distribution before teachers go off the second week of July
ACQUISITION OF SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Fiscal alacrity will prompt school leaders to purchase supplies before the end of the final term. By avoiding the 'back to school rush' you also avoid the attendant price increases prompted by increased demand.
Fill requisitions from the various departments during the months of July and August, and insist on the timely delivery of items to facilitate a smooth start to the school year..
There will always be requests for transfers in, therefore, to avoid unscheduled visits from parents and the disruption of planned activities; set aside a day in the summer to assess each case and do not make it a September exercise.
All this can be accomplished if the Ministry of Education provides funding in July and administrators ensure that all structures are in place before the start of September. Not only will we be able to give reporters a positive response but we will also be able to commence teaching on the first day.
• Pauleen Reid is principal of Holland High School. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.