Southern York County School District Superintendent Sandra Lemmon has begun to see the signs of a new school year.
Athletes are back on the practice fields, band students are preparing for the Friday night lights, and there's a tangible eagerness for the start of school.
"There's just a feeling of excitement, a feeling of starting fresh with a brand new year," she said.
Lemmon is one of three superintendents in York County to start off in a fresh office, too, as the Southern York, Dover Area and West Shore school districts all have new leaders who began in their roles July 1.
Early communication: Lemmon has served in numerous roles at Southern over the past 14 years, most recently as assistant superintendent. But the new district leader spent much of the summer meeting with people in the district to learn how Southern can continue to move forward, and what teachers, parents and community members expect from her.
"As superintendent, I didn't want to make any assumptions in any way," Lemmon said.
Those meetings allowed Lemmon to identify strengths of the district and areas of focus, she said.
Todd Stoltz, superintendent at West Shore, also met with staff and transitioned out of his role as assistant superintendent in the district.
"That I think was a real positive," he said. "I wasn't walking into something on July 1, brand new to the district."
Dover's new superintendent, Ken Cherry, was most recently an assistant superintendent for the Philadelphia School District. But he quickly made up ground by meeting one-on-one with each board member, central office staffer and with several community members, Cherry said.
Receiving that historical perspective will help as Cherry begins the school year, he said, and will help to implement changes by understanding the school community better.
Ready for the year: And though each superintendent has his or her own set of goals, all three agreed they're ready to see students back in classes and officially begin the year.
"I'm highly optimistic about the year," Stoltz said. "I'm excited to have students return."
At Southern, the upcoming year will include building on the use of technology in the district, Lemmon said, with a goal of putting all high school course materials online. Teachers are working to put all materials from class onto a learning platform, so students can access study guides, teacher notes and other classroom resources at any time.
Cherry has implemented a 90-day plan for the start of his tenure, which lays out immediate goals for his job in the district. One of those includes forming a student advisory council, which Cherry will meet with monthly to get first-hand student input on how things are going in district buildings, he said.
Among other curricular changes, Stoltz said he's excited to give West Shore freshmen the chance to take classes part time at the Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School. Students in grades 10th through 12th can already explore possible career fields for after high school, but allowing ninth-graders to attend is a new part for which the district has received a lot of support, Stoltz said.
Old, new traditions: Each of the superintendents said there are aspects to carry over from previous administrations. For example, Lemmon said she plans to continue the tradition of "The Southern Way," an atmosphere of community already familiar to Southern families.
But there are also upcoming changes. At Dover, those include a logo change, created by a student during a school contest that finished soon before Cherry started as superintendent. Cherry is coupling that with a new motto, "Eagles make it happen," which will carry into academics, extracurriculars and community service, he said.
And as the first day of teacher in-service begins Monday morning, Cherry said he'll use that time to remind staff members about their true goal to educate children.
"At the end of the day, nothing replaces a fantastic teacher in the classroom," Cherry said. "And nothing stops 3,600 kids from coming to school."
- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.