SOCSD students return to school

First graders in Isabel McLemore's class at Sudduth Elementary sit on the floor on Tuesday, the first day of school for the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

Hallways, classrooms and cafeterias came alive again as students returned to the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Tuesday.

The 2018-2019 school year got underway, with teachers and administrators returning earlier in August to prepare for the students. This school year will be the first for pre-K classrooms at Sudduth Elementary and West Elementary and for academic institutes at Starkville High School. It is also the first year under the district’s new five-year strategic plan. Additionally, all students will receive free breakfast for the entire year.

The year has already seen some administrative changes at the building level, with former Starkville High School Lead Teacher Cynthia Milons being named interim principal of Overstreet Elementary and former Overstreet Principal Tim Bourne being named the district’s director of accountability, accreditation and assessment.

“I want the kids to know that they are loved, that they are safe and to make sure they learn something today,” Milons said. “That’s my goal every day, to make sure that the kids know that they are loved, they are safe and that they are learning.”

Milons emphasized the importance of giving students second chances. She said it was important to remember that not every student would get it right the first time.

“Just making those positive relationships, I think that’s what’s important,” Milons said. “If a child needs another chance, providing that child with the chance.”

Milons said she hoped to build on the foundation Bourne left at Overstreet.

“This year we’re adding, where we’re just cultivating that passion for students, for them to find their purpose and reach their highest potential,” Milons said. “That’s basically what we’ll be doing, and I know if everyone does that whether it’s the teachers, the students, the staff, then we will be a successful school.”

At Sudduth, first grade teacher Karis Hicks was beginning her second year in the classroom.

“From the very beginning, my class has been so wonderful,” Hicks said. “I was so excited to see how responsible they were, and it really just makes me excited for the rest of the year. There’s so much potential, I think, in first graders, especially at the beginning of school.”

Hicks said she was amazed at how independent her first graders had become by the end of last school year.

“Seeing how they’re coming in this year as new first graders just makes me really excited about how much they’re going to mature, learn and grow the rest of this year,” Hicks said.

Hicks said having a year of experience under her belt had made preparing for her students easier.

“It’s definitely a lot more comforting to know what you’re about to step into,” Hicks said.

At Starkville High School, Principal Sean McDonnall said the day was in full swing.

“We are having school,” McDonnall said. “We’ve got all of them scheduled and about half of them checked. We are hitting the ground running.”

McDonnall said freshmen at SHS this school year would go into the freshman academy program, which serves as the beginning of the district’s academic institutes. In the program freshmen will learn study habits, career exploration and SHS culture. They will also learn about the ACT and Workkeys tests and opportunities each can lead to.

“At the end of that class, they will choose an academic institute to go into next school year,” McDonnall said.

He also said he was glad to see his students back.

“The summer is too long,” McDonnall said.