Michael Owens

Michael Owens

Tigers and Bulldogs alike are heading back to class, and although for many, it will be a familiar journey, others will be making adjustments.

The Macon County Times spoke with principals and teachers from each school in the district to learn their top tips for parents and students, goals for the classroom and new initiatives for the 2019-20 school year.

B.J. West -- Principal, Macon County High School

We're very excited about this school year. Some years garner your attention more than others, and I have a great feeling about this one because the senior class is already very involved and making their footprint known.

There's a lot going on the first month of school, and it can be a big adjustment for the incoming freshmen. The main thing is to take a deep breath and relax, because you're surrounded by great people. Have enough courage to ask for help. Everyone will be very accommodating if you need directions.

For parents, one change in particular is that we won't be taking any parent notes for absences. Doctor's notes will be the only ones we accept, and an absence is an absence except in the case of a school trip or event.

We have several new teachers this year: behavioral intervention teacher and assistant football coach Paul Pierson, strength and conditioning instructor and assistant football coach Kyle Gregory, business teacher Holly Wix, social studies teachers Daniel Tucker (returning after a few years' break) and Terrance Pryor, and Ag teacher and FFA adviser Aaron Walls.

The school board has also approved a countywide career coach position and hired Marla Davis, which goes along with our goal of doing as much as we can to prepare students to get out in the world.

We're also excited about the new corridor being opened. Students won't be able to go through the courtyard to the gym anymore and will use the corridor instead, which is part of our safety initiative. The cafeteria addition is also ready to go and will have windows to let a little more sun and brightness into the day.

Don Jones -- Principal, Red Boiling Springs High School/Junior High

Attendance is very important, and we're always striving to grow academically. This year, the junior high is starting a one-to-one program, where core classes will have Chromebooks for each student to use on assignments.

We want all of our students to have a year of academic growth, and for our seniors, we want them to be able to move successfully into post-secondary education.

Parents, just stay on top of your kids about doing their homework, and always be sure to ask them what they worked on at school today.

Jamie Kelley -- Principal, Macon County Junior High School

For the sixth-grade students coming into the school, you're not the only one. There are over 200 incoming sixth-graders, so don't feel left out and don't be afraid to ask someone for directions.

We try and do a good job posting on social media to keep parents informed of what's happening throughout the year and are making a push toward rigor and standard alignment in the classroom. One of our focus areas in particular is reading comprehension.

We have a new career coach in the county this year who will be helping students figure out what they want to do as they prepare for high school, and Aundrea Parades has been hired to teach sixth-grade social studies.

My door is always open if parents have any questions or concerns, and I'm looking forward to another great year at Macon County Junior High.

Andrea Flynn -- Response to Intervention (RTI) instructor, Westside Elementary School

We want parents to always feel like the doors are open at Westside and know that if they have an issue they can call the school. We want your child to be successful.

We've finally got our RTI program running smoothly and implemented well and are working on best practices for Read to Be Ready so we can move that program into the fourth and fifth-grade classrooms.

Our goal is for the kids to feel happy, safe and loved at Westside, and we feel that if they do, academics will fall into place.

Erica Woodard -- Read to Be Ready coach, Westside Elementary School

The most important thing is to be patient, because both the children and teachers are getting used to being back in school. We want the kids to be successful at their own level and to meet the high expectations we know they can achieve.

We're still doing Read to Be Ready in grades K-3 and implementing some new strategies, so our expectations are high, and students are rising to our goals. This will be our second full year with the program.

Michael Owens -- Principal, Red Boiling Springs Elementary

The most important thing is attendance. Make sure your child is able to get to school, because if you're not, you can't learn.

We also want to encourage parents to read to their children, or at least make sure they're reading at night. Your child's education is a team effort, and parents need to be supportive of school staff so everyone can succeed.

This year, we have two new fifth-grade teachers, Katherine Greenhalgh and Nicole Bilbro, and Ashley Bartley has moved to second grade. Leslie Goad has also become our full-time Read to Be Ready coach, which I think will be a huge asset in improving our reading scores.

With pick-ups, the main thing is not to come early. We do it by grade level. Whatever your pick-up time is, make sure you come then so you won't have to go to the back of the line.

Overall, we want to create a good, safe learning environment for the students and faculty and to make sure our test scores have gone up by the end of the year.

Kristen Hix -- Principal, Lafayette Elementary School

We're all excited about the new year, both meeting the incoming fourth-graders and welcoming returning fifth-graders.

The main thing as school is starting is to be patient with us with drop-offs and pick-ups as we all get back in routine. There are two lanes of drop-offs in the morning, and I'll be helping direct traffic the first few days. Afternoon pick-ups are at the back of the building, where parents will go through the parking lot and make a u-turn back out.

We're also trying a new reading unit, and some of the parents may have to adjust to how things are done. It will last for a couple of weeks toward Christmas, and the students won't be bringing home any work in their Friday folders until it's completed.

Our goals this year are to make sure reading and math are a priority. We'll be using real-life news articles and non-fiction books in reading and making sure students have hands-on manipulatives to learn their skills in math a bit better.

Daniel Cook -- Principal, Central Elementary School

An understanding of the student handbook is very important. Parents should make sure they've read all the policies and procedures, and filled out the paperwork.

Another thing is to gain an understanding of the flow of the school, especially drop-offs, pick-ups and loading and unloading buses. We ask that parents be patient over the first few weeks.

We strive to have a high level of proficiency in math in reading and want to make it a fun and engaging learning environment. Third grade is also the first year the students take the state assessment (the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP), so we'll be working with those students on that.

Connor Mullinix -- First-grade teacher, Fairlane Elementary School

As a first-grade teacher, you want to get the kids prepared for second grade both academically and with social skills.

One way we're doing that is through the Read to Be Ready program. We started it last year, but this year, we're hoping to fully go into it in both Kindergarten and first grade.

Parent involvement is also very important, and we want the parents to know they can come to us with any concerns. And if they're coming in to pick up a child, they have to have a pick-up card.

Tonia Powell -- Response to Intervention (RTI) instructor, Fairlane Elementary School

Our biggest struggle the first couple of weeks is with pickup, so if your child is a pickup, please be patient with us.

As early childhood educators, we encourage parents to read with their children every day, for at least 20 minutes. It helps the child's reading development more when there's someone working with them.

My goal is for all the students to be grade-level ready. My program is fairly new to the state, less than five years old, so we're hoping to keep moving forward with it. With Read to Be Ready, we're integrating social studies, science and more into our reading curriculum.