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The air practically crackles with anticipation and excitement at the start of each new school year, and 2013 was no exception.

And every year, the Sherwood School Board looks forward to hearing from the principals about the first week of school at its September meeting.

“We are off to an exciting start,” said Ken Bell, new Sherwood High School principal. “We have 1,500-plus students and 100-plus staff, and there is a buzz in the air. After school there was a band practice going on, teams practicing, acappella tryouts and play tryouts.by: BARBARA SHERMAN - OFF TO A GOOD START - On the first day of school Sept. 3 at Hopkins Elementary, fifth-grade teacher Marika Conrad greets new student Jordan Junkin while Isla Cox waits her turn at the classroom door. Conrad is one of only nine winners across the nation to be given the 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council on Geography Education.The Distinguished Teaching Award honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and learning of geography in the classroom.

“We had a fantastic first day with just the freshmen and the LINK crew. It was so valuable for them to have that first day alone, and then we had a fantastic week – a really smooth week. At the end of the week, we had a fantastic pep assembly… It was awesome – everyone was fired up.”

Steve Emmert, Laurel Ridge Elementary School principal, told the board that the staff had a “really, really productive in-service week… I received a lot of positive feedback from the staff,” he said.

Marianne Funderhide, Sherwood Middle School principal, also praised the work that got accomplished during the in-service week.

“It gave us time to reflect on why we do this – and we do it because we believe we can make a difference,” she said. “But the best day was when the kids came back… the teachers were prepared, and we’re off to a good start.”

Many of the principals, including Edy Ridge Elementary’s Frank Luzaich, were enthusiastic about the introduction this summer of Synergy, a new student-information system.

Parents have to register for a ParentVue account, which then allows them to monitor student academic performance and attendance, and while parents will still need to contact the school office to update important contact information such as telephone numbers and email addresses, the district is hoping to offer this via ParentVue in the future.

ParentVue was set up to be the school district’s primary means for communicating academic information to parents.

Also, the administrators were excited about the new evaluation system for educator effectiveness and support that went into effect July 1 that was part of Senate Bill 290, which the Oregon Legislature passed in 2011.

Now core teaching standards must be used as a part of all evaluations of teachers and administrators of school districts as part of the bill; in 2012, the state Board of Education adopted core teaching standards to improve student academic growth and learning.

Jon Wollmuth, Archer Glen principal, told the board, “We got off to an amazing start.”

He said a highlight was the first morning gathering of the staff: “It was like bringing a family back together,” he said. “We are collectively utilizing our strengths and are setting the stage for a positive year of collaboration.

“Then the students came. It’s like the light comes on in our building.”

Hopkins Elementary Principal Tim Smith said, “We are off to a great start and a good beginning.”

Like several other principals, Smith praised the board for putting back the last Friday before school started as another in-service day. “It gave us so much more time this year,” he said.

Jeremiah Patterson, Middleton principal, was excited to report that he happened to answer the phone last June when a woman from Georgia called to say she is now in her 90s and had been a student at Middleton many decades ago.

Patterson asked her to write down what she remembered about attending the school in the 1920s, and “she wrote six single-spaced pages of quirky and fun details,” he said

Patterson added, “It made me think about all the blessings here and being next to the pioneer cemetery. We have to remember to just unplug and remember how to connect with people and our community.”

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