September 10, 2001
Northshore central office employees provide a helping hand
by Deborah Stone
On Sept. 4, there were lots of new faces on many of Northshore's school campuses. In addition to the number of new students and new staff, there were over 50 district representatives, ranging from human resources, technology and business services to the superintendent and a school board member, on hand to help meet, greet, direct new students and answer questions.
This was a first for Northshore and the idea stemmed from a discussion at a committee meeting on work efficiency. "The idea was that if people in the central office knew and understood what staff around the district were doing, then efficiency and total communication would improve," explains Pamela Steele, Director of Communications for Northshore. "Superintendent Karen Forys is really committed to improving communication between the schools and the central office and this seemed like a great way to work towards this goal."
Kris Terada, supervisor for Information Services in the district, gathered information to determine which schools would like what type of help and which central office staff could provide it. According to Steele, enthusiasm was high and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Schools were excited to have the extra assistance on what always is a very busy and chaotic first day of school.
Volunteers were assigned to help answer phones, hand out schedules, work in the attendance offices, direct students to classrooms and supervise recesses.
Debbie Branstetter, director of technology for Northshore, has been with the district since 1973, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to help kindergartners at East Ridge Elementary on the first day of school.
She says, "I used to be a classroom teacher at the elementary level before moving to the central office and I jumped at the chance to return to the schools and be with the children. I miss the interaction with the students and this was a perfect opportunity for me to be involved once again. I also remember how tough the first day is and the more helping hands you have, the smoother things will go for everyone.
"It's so important for kids, especially the kindergartners and those new to the schools, to get a positive impression on the first day and feel safe and secure."
Branstetter adeptly moved from meeting and greeting buses to ushering kindergartners to their teachers, easily making the transition from the central office environment to the school playground. She seemed in her element as she answered questions, comforted apprehensive youngsters and served as a calming adult presence amid the frenzied excitement of the first day.
"It was so much fun to be back in a school," comments Branstetter. "I really enjoyed seeing the children and feeling that excitement and energy again. I especially liked helping the little nervous ones, as it was wonderful to see how their faces lit up when I brought them over to their teachers. You could almost feel their sighs of relief when they connected with their teachers and knew they'd be ok."
Superintendent Forys was also on hand at East Ridge Elementary, working for half a day with Branstetter to assist kindergartners.
She says, "It's wonderful to be here. I know on this first day that staff can use all the assistance they can get, especially the kindergartner teachers! I'm happy to help with whatever is needed."
According to Steele, the district will evaluate how the day went to determine future action.
She says, "We will ask for an assessment from the schools and we will also ask the central office people how they felt about their experiences. My guess is that this was a positive, win-win experience for both groups."