New superintendent talks about first day of school, registration, high school vandalism

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 7, 2013 

The Muscogee County School District’s new superintendent conducted his news conference about the first day of the school year Wednesday while two floors below him in the system’s headquarters parents waited to register their children.

That’s the most glaring area, David Lewis said. He wants to improve as he assesses the district. Waiting times have been up to several hours this summer, he said.

“There are still a number of parents and students reporting to register,” Lewis said. “Attendance is extremely important for our students and the teaching and learning process. We need all of our children in school the first day and every day.”

Enrollment as of 2 p.m. was 31,492 students, which is 215 less than the 31,707 figure in the district’s 2012 annual report.

Lewis intends for a task force to examine the registration process and make recommendations. He would like to see better use of technology, perhaps enabling parents to register their children via computer from home.

Muscogee’s first day of classes in the 2013-14 school year was marred by incidents of vandalism.

At Kendrick High School, at least 16 windows were busted out overnight, including the gym and front doors, said district communications director Valerie Fuller.

At Columbus High School, sometime Wednesday morning, someone spray-painted “F--- CHS” in orange on a school sign on 17th Street near the intersection with Flournoy Drive. In blue, “2013” was spray-painted on the sidewalk. Orange and blue are the school’s colors.

Officials were unaware of the issues until around 10 a.m. A crew began pressure washing the graffiti around 10:15 a.m.

A woman who said she lives nearby said she drove by the sign around 5 a.m. and saw no vandalism.

Columbus police and the district’s security personnel are investigating both cases, Fuller said.

At 12:30 p.m., Fuller reported the graffiti at Columbus High had been cleaned off the sign and sidewalk, and a contractor already started repairing the broken windows at Kendrick.

No cost estimates on the damage were available, Lewis said.

Anyone with information about these incidents should call police, Fuller said.

Other than a few delayed middle school buses, the district transported about 16,000 students without incident Wednesday, said Lewis. The district also is nearly full staff, he said, with only four vacancies: two in special education and two in discipline programs. But all hiring is “on hold,” Lewis said, “due to the need to assess staffing needs against enrollment data.”

Lewis started the morning greeting students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Hardaway High, Richards Middle and the new Aaron Cohn Middle School.

“I didn’t sleep well last night, like I typically don’t before the first school day,” said Lewis, who had spent his entire 34-year education career in Polk County (Fla.) Public Schools, where he was associated superintendent for learning before he was hired here last month. “… Getting on the buses and meeting the students, that just drives home the whole reason why we’re here.”

Especially on his first day of school as a superintendent.

“It’s as exciting as the first,” Lewis said, then added with a laugh, “maybe more so, just because I have a little bit more at stake and ownership in this one.”

Metro editor Stephanie Pedersen contributed to this report.

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