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April 3, 2015

How we love your kids

A message from Dr. Patricia O’Connor, Superintendent of WCCS

For educators, the winter is always an interesting time. We’re well into routines again after the holiday break, and accept there’ll be occasional interruptions from Mother Nature. Yet we understand that the winter can feel long for students.
As I thought about how to introduce this blog to the community, I kept returning to one theme. It circled around something I observed over and over in December, which was all of the thoughtful consideration we put into simply cherishing our children. It’s very heartwarming to see what teachers do—what all school people do—to embrace and care for our kids.
Above all, our teachers and staff instinctively remember that our students are children—they are kids who deserve caring and nurturing. So there is a sense of patience and kindness and understanding.
From the moment we wake, our students’ safety and security are the top priority. This starts at 3:00 in the morning when we’re first making the assessment if the weather and road conditions are safe.
Once they arrive, we make sure to have breakfast available and that all students have a healthy lunch. With great care, our food service managers create healthy, appetizing meals that our kids will eat. It’s not easy, especially when you’re competing with fast food. The sheer quantity of information our food service managers have to filter through just to get a meal on the table for the students is mind-boggling. Following the federal guidelines is a whole topic in itself. These guidelines have been a big challenge, but our kitchen team is resourceful and up to the task.
Then, always in the teachers’ minds is a driving desire to find the best way to connect to each student. What is effective? What meets their needs academically, and, are there ways to be better? Add to this that we have over 500 students who receive special education services, each with specific accommodations and modifications. It’s wonderful the way our WCCS special education teachers, general education teachers, principals and nurses all lock arms to ensure that we’re educating students as individuals.
Our teachers and staff do a remarkable job instilling in our children the life skill that we must respect each other’s differences. WCCS students are taught that respecting diversity, tolerating those who are different and helping those who are struggling are what make us good neighbors and community members as adults.
Through this, we provide a basic structure for our students—consistently and kindly. We have discipline plans in place that make sense to teach new skills to improve behavior. We work closely with everyone to bring them along with a plan that is proactive and solves problems before they escalate. Our counselors help by leaving no stone unturned when it comes to helping students and their families who need support.
At every grade level, we provide opportunities for students. Our teachers put a lot of emphasis on building relationships with students, community business partners and each other. Teaching and mentoring students has a very powerful, long-term impact—it’s something our teachers naturally understand and a responsibility they take seriously.  Naturally, to build such strong relationships, it takes a great deal of effective communication; also an area in which our teachers excel.
I’ll leave you with this: There is a circle of caring and support in our school corporation; it’s a very special place. Someone once said to me that there is humbleness in this community that’s unmatched. People need to understand and be proud of this great community, because truly, we’re doing great things here.

Until next time,
Pat O’Connor

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of messages from Dr. Pat O'Connor, superintendent of Whitley County Consolidated Schools. We will soon have a new area on Talk of the Town dedicated to information from Whitley County Consolidated Schools.