OLEAN — Early school districts are gearing up for back-to-school on Tuesday, and some of them will have new faces in leadership positions.
In the Olean City School District, new district superintendent Dr. Genelle Morris said he welcomed faculty and staff to the relationship-building buildings on Wednesday, both with new team members and among long-serving staff.
“We want to share that enthusiasm and focus with our students arriving on Tuesday,” she said.
Morris, a former deputy superintendent of schools for the city of Rochester, was named the new superintendent of Olean on June 21. She started her new role on July 11 and has spent the past two months getting to know the school community in preparation for the new school year.
“We’re thrilled that this is one of the most ‘normal’ years in a long time as we don’t have any of the COVID restrictions,” Morris said.
For the first days for teachers, everyone was encouraged to wear their school colors and a photo booth was set up to capture the new memories they were making. Morris said everyone seemed happy and ready to welcome students back.
“Next week, each of the skills has additional activities they are going to do that are more student-focused,” she said.
In high school, Morris said opening day will include an assembly of motivational speakers. Elementary and middle schools held open houses where families could meet their children’s teachers earlier this week, and a high school open house is scheduled for later in September.
“We really focus on relationships,” she said. “We encourage our parents to feel welcome and our students will be delighted to return next week to start school.”
Although the restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have been lifted, Morris said the school continues to be in contact with the county and the state, so if precautions need to be taken, they are ready to deal with it. .
“The state Department of Education will be sending additional PPE or masks to all schools in the state, but it’s for voluntary use by our students and staff,” she said. . “We are all hoping for a ‘normal’ school resumption.”
Morris said everyone was thrilled to see all of the students returning on behalf of the entire district. “Hopefully the kids will take this opportunity to get back to their sleep routines and get ready, and we’ll see everyone on Tuesday.”
Spending more than 30 years in urban education, primarily in Buffalo and most recently in Rochester, Morris earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Canisius College and earned her master’s degree in science education from the University at Buffalo, where she also earned his doctorate in educational and political leadership.
In addition to her roles in the classroom and as an administrator, Morris has served as an adjunct teacher and has served on various education committees and boards at the local, regional, state, and national levels.
DURING THIS TIME, Salamanca City’s Central School District has been busy with programs all summer, but faculty and staff have been preparing for the new school year over the past two weeks, said Dr. Mark Beehler, the new district superintendent.
“The first two weeks are all about logistics,” he said, saying the administration was working with each department to ensure school buildings were ready for students. “Especially now that school safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
The school board named Beehler as the next superintendent in early May. He took office on July 1 after serving as an assistant and deputy superintendent at Salamanca for the past seven years.
“We are very confident, we are ready to go. We have additional support staff who will be able to answer phones, answer questions, work with students,” he said. “I’m very confident that the first day of school will be a great day for all of our students and staff.”
With COVID a much lesser concern this year, Beehler said there may still be some students and staff who are more comfortable wearing masks, which is perfectly fine. But for the most part, with the restrictions lifted, he said the district was happy to regain a sense of normalcy.
“When I first spoke with the staff, that’s what we really need to do: get back to pre-pandemic expectations,” he said. “We know that there are residual effects of the pandemic, not only learning loss, but also behavioral issues that have arisen in the last 18 months to two years that are not what we are looking for. we were expecting or that we have experienced before. Emphasis will be placed on disciplining students with an emphasis on restorative practices.
In the coming year, Beehler said the district hopes to hold more regular events at each of the schools for students and their families. From activity nights to dances to movie nights, he said they wanted the school to be a bigger part of the community after being unable to do so in recent years.
“Our goal is to have all students in the school not only to learn, but also to socialize and have positive interactions,” he added. “Our athletic competitions are amazing, but there are still a number of students who aren’t taking part in this that we want to see engaged at school.”
Beehler said he was grateful for the support from the entire community during COVID and his recent transition to the new role.
“Now we have to go back to what school was like and those consistent expectations, and we’re excited to be able to do that,” he said.
Beehler’s career in education spanned 29 years, beginning as a middle school science teacher. He went on to teach high school chemistry, driver training, and coach various sports.
Beehler’s administrative career began as an assistant principal at a college in Orchard Park. He then held various building and district level positions in West Seneca for 12 years. Beehler also served as an adjunct instructor at Daemen College for nine years.
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