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CLINTON - It's that time of year again: School buses are back in the morning commute, backpacks are filled with new pencils and full lunches, and parents are left at the bus stop with tears in their eyes.
Clinton students go back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 2, when they'll meet new staff members, see school building facelifts and new computers, and finalizing core instructional practices.
Among the new faces, Shanta Morrison Smith will greet students at the Joel School on opening day as the new assistant principal. She officially started Aug. 1. Previously she served as the assistant principal at the King/Robinson Inter-District International Baccalaureate World Magnet School in New Haven. In addition, the school system has hired a new special services supervisor as well as an elementary school math coach and a high school literacy instructional coach, as well as an additional high school guidance counselor.
Besides new personnel, several of the schools in town have undergone a number of small projects throughout the summer months, including the addition of some floor replacements, new counter tops, sinks, and other minor projects, according to Superintendent of Schools Jack Cross,.
The Eliot School had its septic system replaced, and the Joel School got an upgrade to the surface of its playground area, as well as a facelift of sorts on the front area to create a better design for safer and more efficient snow removal and to improve sight lines. This work includes terracing the area, improving the aesthetics, and making maintenance easier. The work is being completed by the town's Department of Public Works.
In addition, there have been several technical upgrades made over the summer.
"We have been able to leverage a lot of tech upgrades, which are part of our four-year replacement cycle," said Cross. "We have gone through most of the schools and touched almost every computer now, ensuring that none of them are older than four years and they are all on the same operating system now. This cycle has allowed us more flexibility with laptop computers."
He added, "We are really looking forward to the 2014-'15 school year. There will be a real focus on celebrating the things that we are doing well in the district, such as defining more specifically what distinguishes Clinton from other districts."
Cross said foremost among the schools' distinguishing factors is its K-12 curriculum, which "ensures that each student goes through our system with a consistent experience using a core group of strategies that span each grade level. We have been working on this for several years and now we are able to define and celebrate it this year.
"We are also able to finalize the core instructional practices and strategies this year to provide students with the best possible experiences in our schools, with continual instructional practices, and we are very proud of our junior portfolio exhibition, which no other district does for their juniors, as well as our K-12 language program, which prepares students to enter high school at a level three in Spanish," Cross continued. "This translates to a larger number of students who advance through AP Spanish courses prior to graduating high school."
He added, "We have a lot going on for the teachers and the students, and there will be an improved platform for learning this year for everyone. Despite the economic circumstances of the town and the country, we continue to advance and improve our school system, providing a high level of education and guidance for our students in every grade level, and this is visible through our students' success and achievements."