Our Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education designated last week as Classified Employee Week, but several schools are recognizing the contributions of our classified staff members this week instead because parent/teacher conferences consumed much of last week. I'd like to join our schools in thanking our classified staff members for their hard work and service to the students, staff and parents of the Five Star community.
"Classified staff," for those of you not familiar with school district jargon, are the support staff personnel in our organization. They include our bus drivers and mechanics; plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and other personnel who keep our schools in good repair; custodians; paraprofessionals and teachers aids; secretaries and office managers; our cooks and food service personnel; campus supervisors at our high school campuses; the BASE staff who engage our young children in fun play and interaction before and after the school day; and a variety of others in important roles supporting safe and productive learning and working environments for students and staff.
I've witnessed countless examples of classified staff making a significant positive impact upon our students and staff in the first two months of the school year. I'd love to share all of them, but a few examples will help paint the picture of how these staff members contribute to student success in the Five Star Schools:
-- I joined the kindergartners at Eagleview Elementary for lunch on their first day of school back in August and marveled at the how the staff in the kitchen and cafeteria helped that group of excited and high energy students navigate their way through the lunch line, and eat at least some of their lunch, in between all of the start of school year social conversations. In addition to serving students a nutritious meal with fresh fruits and vegetables, the kitchen and cafeteria staff take on a variety of other roles, including opening milk cartons for kindergartners struggling to figure that out and counseling students to make new friends and treat others with respect.
Sometimes those interactions over a meal become more complicated, as I saw later that day at Eagleview. One of the students shared that he had not had a happy summer, as his father had unexpectedly passed away a few weeks before school. Engaging in difficult and sensitive conversations like this one -- even if brief -- is not part of the job description for our Nutrition Services staff, but they step in to provide support and reassurance in a manner that reinforces to students that all of our staff care about their success and well-being.
-- In early September, I rode along with Heather, one of the district's bus drivers, and Anna, a paraprofessional assigned to her bus to help the students with disabilities on that route. The students had a variety of disabilities that required the assistance of district transportation, including students in wheelchairs, students who cannot communicate verbally, and students with cognitive impairments.
Heather and Anna's route is a long one -- I believe it was about 45 minutes from when the first student boarded the bus to when she arrived at her school. It requires careful driving over many streets and highways in our community, and gentle but firm management of student behavior so that the students remain seated and remain quiet -- especially at intersections with railroad tracks. (Anna and a couple of students had to remind me of the "no talking" rule at one of those intersections . . . .)
The long bus ride also creates the opportunity to build deep and meaningful relationships between Heather, Anna, and the students they support. I saw firsthand how excited many of the students on that route were to get on the bus, and the excitement was driven by their eagerness to reconnect with Heather and Anna, their special friends and trusted adults. The students shared stories with Heather and Anna regarding their pets, their siblings, video games, and their favorite TV shows and movies; and these two ladies helped these students start their school day in a positive place because of their genuine care and concern for the children and active dialogue with them.
-- Over the past year, I've had several conversations with a father and mother who invested hundreds of hours to sponsor a huge fundraising event in August to benefit a variety of charitable organizations, including the Five Star Education Foundation. Their son, who attends one of our middle schools, lost his eyesight a couple of years ago as a complication of his battle with cancer, and the parents organized the fundraiser to help purchase technology to support students with vision impairments and other disabilities.
Technology has made a huge difference for their child in adapting to his life without sight, but the parents made clear that technology is just one of many supports that have allowed their son to thrive academically, socially, and learn to play the drums and guitar. In particular, they pointed to a paraprofessional who has worked closely with their son so that he becomes proficient in using adaptive technologies and continues his academic success. In an era in which our society clamors for more and more technology, gadgets and devices, this story reinforces that a high quality education cannot be provided to our students without the support of caring, committed and talented adults. I am grateful that this student has such support from this paraprofessional -- and am grateful that students and staff throughout the district have the active support and assistance of our classified staff members.
I hope that you'll join me -- this week, and throughout the year -- in taking a minute to thank the classified staff members who support your child, or your work as a teacher or administrator in the system. We are fortunate to have so many people in these roles -- like the ones I've described here -- who are so deeply invested in supporting a positive and productive learning environment for our students.