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Savannah goes back to school
Mixed feelings expressed by Chatham residents as routine and responsibility accompany start to the 2019-2020 school year
Gif Lockley (voted 2019 Connect Savannah Principal of the year) carrying a glittered scepter and leading the parade of seniors into their first day of school at Savannah Arts Academy (voted 2019 Connect Savannah Public School of the year).

The intoxicating scent of new crayons filled the air at schools across Chatham County, both public and private, as students started a new school year last week.

Asked what is their favorite part of back-to-school, parents had mixed emotions:

Sheila Stortz Berg has children at STEM and Hesse. She enjoys, “seeing friends and teachers we haven’t seen all summer!”

Jasmine Polley has three children at Godley Station. She enjoys, “the excitement and joy on my kids’ faces when they go back and see their teacher and friends. They are so eager and excited to learn.”

Leslie Glunts Guthrie, mother of two at Georgetown Elementary says that there is not much that she enjoys about going back to school: “We love summer!”

Totally understand - the sacred siren song of the pool and the beach can be irresistable.

Sarah Elizabeth Fleetwood says she enjoys, “Seeing all the little kids walk by my house on the way to school.”

Lynn Adams, a Class of 2020 Senior at Savannah Arts Academy says, “I don’t want summer to end.”

Hold on Lynn, been-there-done-that last year, senior year is hectic and graduation comes all too fast.

Hollie Dix Stephens says, “I enjoy the summer with my kiddos. So much less stress in the summer.” No tests or science fair projects certainly equates to a more peaceful environment.

Charity Lee says she enjoys, “supply shopping! Love it more than my first grader!”

Unfortunately the legislature did not pass a tax exempt weekend for school supplies this year - sorry Charity.

Michael Johnson, District 7 School Board Member is glad to get back to a regular schedule with his first grade son, Tommy, at Charles Ellis Montessori Academy, and gives this advice, “If you have questions, ask them. Your teachers, assistant principals, and principals are there to help.”

District 1 School Board Member, Julie Wade, a Savannah Arts and Jacob G. Smith mom has these words of wisdom.

“My advice would be to let your kids direct their own school experience, from selecting school supplies, choosing what they want for lunch (with healthy parameters, of course), giving them freedom to fail, and cheering their successes when they work hard to turn that C into a B grade, even though you know they could have made an A,” says Wade.

“Kids have so much pressure on them these days, and we need to let them fall and watch them pick themselves back up. As my own children have gotten older, I have realized those lessons are more valuable than learning a certain math equation or historical fact (no offense to all our math and history teachers!). Also, let your teacher know you have his/her back!”

Wise counsel Julie!

Dr. Chris Harmon, Savannah Christian Preparatory School Headmaster, and 2019 Connect Savannah Best Private School award winner gives some sage advice to students.

“Before you begin school, choose how you invest in your year. Choose to make new friends, choose to get to know your teacher, choose to encourage others in your class, choose to work hard and make sure to ask for help when you need it,” he says. “Life is about choices. Choose to have a good year and then act upon it. Your choice to have a great year will be infectious to others in the class.”

SCCPSS School Board President Joe Buck says, “I hope that everyone is excited about a new year with new opportunities and new challenges! My hope for students and their parents is that they have a wonderful experience within Savannah Chatham Public Schools. Communication and cooperation are integral to all of our constituencies having a marvelous experience. On behalf of the Board, I pledge our continued cooperation with students and their parents and with the staff as we work for each student to succeed!”

David Bringman, dad of one student at STEM and another at Georgetown Elementary says, “I would like to impress upon students and parents the importance of getting involved. Students should continue to strive to do their best in everything they attempt. Parents can get involved by joining the PTA/PTO and supporting the teachers and staff at their children's school. I would ask that each parent or guardian ask their student three questions each day. What did you learn today? What did you do that was fun? How were you nice to someone today?” Good information from our District 6 School Board Representative.

Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall, School Board District 8 Board Member and retired educator offers this inspiration:

“The 2020 school year is here which means it's time for a fresh start for our students. The year 2020 reminds me of having a 20/20 vision as a result of an eye exam. A 20/20 vision is the ability to see with clarity and sharpness. Therefore, I’m challenging every parent, student, teacher, administrator, community leader and each constituent with this question, ‘What’s your 20/20 vision for this school year?’” she says.

“Maybe you want to explore and try new things or perhaps make a commitment to reach out to others. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what your vision for the 20/20 school year will be. Remember, a 20/20 vision is the ability to see with clarity and sharpness. Always work to your fullest potential and never give up. In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘We must keep moving. We must keep going. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.’ When you believe in yourself and your capabilities, you are more likely to achieve your goals and your vision will become a reality - with clarity and sharpness!”

Luke Edenfield (a.k.a. The Boy) escorted by his Aunt Melanie on the first day of Senior year and holding posters filled with precious childhood memories.
Luke Edenfield (a.k.a. The Boy) escorted by his Aunt Melanie on the first day of Senior year and holding posters filled with precious childhood memories.

With children at STEM and Islands High School, Shawn Kachmar, District 4 School Board Representative gives some good practical dad counsel.

“Get more sleep than you think you need; hydrate; don’t wait to the last minute on homework, projects, studying, etc. - you and your parents will be grateful,” he says.

“Don’t wait to tell your parents you need something for school that day as you are walking out the door that morning; don’t sweat the small stuff - life can be full of annoyances and irritations - have a positive attitude, assume that people have the best of intentions, and be a positive, active, and engaged member of your school community; try to enjoy the journey instead of being focused on the destination - K-12 school offers a safe space to develop your curiosity, learn about yourself and your passions, develop social skills, and start figuring out your path in life - take advantage of the opportunity - and parents, give students the space to explore, fail (or succeed), and learn from their experiences.”

Connie Hall, a retired principal and teacher who now serves as the District 3 School Board member offers a poem for students and parents,

“Sharpen your pencils! Gather your pens!

Get ready to meet your new teachers and friends!

Go on your phone and set your alarm

The ‘Early bird catches the worm’ is the charm!

Parents, don’t fret about first school day woes

Our teachers are sharp and will be on their toes.

Relax and be listening for your class bells to ring

Best wishes on enjoying all this school year will bring!”

I’ll add my two cents: Parents, don’t forget to sign up on the Operation Beacon parent portal - that way when your child’s teacher calls on you to help, you have already been approved as a volunteer. And, despite Governor Brian Kemp’s veto of the statewide recess bill, all Chatham County students through 5th grade are guaranteed 30 minutes of recess per day as required in Board Policy - contact your school’s Principal if that is not happening.

Keep handy the SCCPSS transportation phone number and bus schedules - (912) 395-5591.

Parents can opt their children out of most standardized testing.

SCCPSS families who receive free or reduced lunch must reapply each year to maintain their recipient status - prior year meal status will expire in September. Breakfast is free for all students.

And for those readers who believe that everything they ever needed to learn in life, they learned from watching HBO’s “The Wire”, I leave you with a quote from 8th grader Namond Brice, “I love the first day of school, everybody is all friendly and shit.”