Smooth first day for two new Beaufort County principals

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comAugust 20, 2012 

For at least two new Beaufort County principals, Monday's first day of school was all about logistics.

Are students in the right class? Will lunches run on time? Will the parking lot be clogged with after-school traffic?

Despite the worries -- worries that at times kept them up nights -- Beaufort High School principal Corey Murphy and Bluffton Middle School principal Pat Freda said the first day went smoothly.

Beaufort High students' schedules were a nagging problem most of the summer. Computer glitches, three new guidance counselors on a staff of four and an almost complete change in administration left schedules uncertain up to the opening bell. Murphy said he fielded emails from parents, staff and students through Sunday night, even though he was away for an Army Reserve drill weekend.

"I'll get some sleep tomorrow," he said.

As students came in Monday, they were corralled to the Beaufort High gym, where staff quickly crosschecked lists and directed each student to a homeroom. There, they received their updated schedules.

In the gym, Murphy quickly fielded requests from circles of students, stopping only to shake their hands or crack a short joke. He then walked the halls and couldn't take more than a few steps without students approaching, asking where they should be.

But about 40 minutes after the first bell, the pace slowed and the halls quieted. Some schedule problems persisted, but guidance counselors were handling them and Murphy hopes to have them resolved in a day or two. When Murphy walked the halls later in the morning -- he never stands still and rarely sits down, and has directed his assistant principals to do the same -- it was quiet. Almost too quiet for a high school. At least one teacher remarked that it was "amazing" as she walked by Murphy, and when superintendent Valerie Truesdale came to check in, she said the same.

"There's no trash cans on fire, and no pitchforks," Murphy said laughing when district chief of operations Phyllis White dropped in to check on him, too.

Across the county at Bluffton Middle, Freda also was having an orderly day. She planned for scheduling issues -- even setting aside a room for the students who encountered problems. But by the end of first period, that room was empty.

Then it was on to lunch, where quick turnaround times between shifts made her a bit nervous. Students tend to forget their lunch account numbers, she said, or they can't decide what to eat.

But things moved like clockwork -- never mind that the clock on the cafeteria wall was four minutes slow. The biggest crisis seemed to be the long line of sixth-graders intent upon pizza, despite the long wait and Freda's attempt to tempt them with grilled-chicken sandwiches.Once lunch was out of the way, Freda focused on dismissal. She had designated staff members to check each hall before allowing the buses to leave, ensuring that no one missed a ride home.

Though the first day is behind them, neither Murphy nor Freda -- two of the five new principals in Beaufort County public schools this year -- think all trouble has passed.

Calling it a "honeymoon period," Murphy said he expected some issues to crop up. Some students weren't in school Monday, and Tuesday's a whole different schedule, he said.

Freda is prepared to begin stricter enforcement of the dress code -- a lot of girls showed up in sandals, and only closed-toe shoes are allowed. But mostly, she is eager to get to know the students better.

"I like having the kids here," she said. "I'm glad it's the first day. After all the prep work, it's nice to seem them in the building."

Related content

  1. First day of school brings changes for some Beaufort County students; Aug. 20, 2012
  2. New Bluffton Middle principal, district administrator named; June 26, 2012
  3. New principal named at Beaufort High School; May 29, 2012
  4. New principal hired for Port Royal Elementary; April 18, 2012
  5. Port Royal Elementary principal will move to Shanklin Elementary next year; Feb. 27, 2012
  6. New ACE director named; May 2, 2012

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