State School Superintendent John Barge made the presentation on Friday. The winners were selected because they represent the best in “customer service” for Georgia families, whether it’s on the phone, in the front office, or on the Internet.
Each school chosen had welcoming staff members, comfortable waiting areas, clear signage and engaging student work throughout the building. School websites are easy to navigate and result in partnerships with parents in helping to improve student achievement.
The schools also provide unique, engaging and innovative parent-engaging programming that is successful in reaching all families in the school. All this is to say that Woodstock Elementary leadership recognizes the importance of a welcoming environment, a place where students feel at home and where their parents are aware and informed about all facets of their child’s public education experience.
I was so happy to be asked to participate in the program. For 24 of the 48 years we have been in Woodstock, we have had children or grandchildren at Woodstock Elementary.
While this award recognized only one short year in the life of the school, it behooves us to recognize that the groundwork was laid in another century. Generations of Woodstock children began a lifetime of learning at Woodstock School.
From a neighborhood school when the population was 300 to a diverse cultural center in a city of 25,000, Woodstock’s children have been taught, disciplined, loved, cared for, encouraged and inspired.
Throughout many decades, school personnel didn’t have today’s technology, but they also didn’t have the huge numbers of students.
During the many years when our descendants were there, it seemed all the teachers somehow knew all the students, even those not in their classrooms. There were siblings and cousins and, occasionally, children of former students.
Most communication between parent and teacher was by way of handwritten notes or a phone call or visit. Often a parent could speak with a child’s teacher at church or the grocery store or the ball park.
If someone misbehaved or played hookey, word spread like wildfire. They tell a story about one young man who decided to go fishing up at the Rope Mill instead of going to school. He was caught, but not punished. The school principal, Bill Booth, ran into him when he himself decided to take a fishing break.
Circumstances have changed for sure. Enrollment has sky-rocketed, and students and teachers have adjusted from the move to a new campus with more space, more amenities, extra opportunities for exposure to the arts, up-to-date equipment in classrooms and the offices, and an emphasis on the inclusion of all family members in the education process of each and every student.
It’s been a few years since our last grandchild finished up at Woodstock Elementary and went on to Woodstock Middle and High. But I still find myself going to visit the school.
I relish my memories of the old library, but love the new, cozy media center. And I consider it a golden opportunity when I’m invited to PTA meetings in the gym where different grades present musical programs.
I was asked to speak briefly Friday about the school’s connection with the community, and I did so with pride. Today the school has a well-defined working relationship with the city of Woodstock and its various departments, the Downtown Development Authority, the Main Street program, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Preservation Woodstock, the public library, the Elm Street Arts Center, local civic groups, the business community, and a core of volunteers and interested citizens.
I was happy to share info about the annual walking tour for third-graders. The students are escorted by Woodstock Police to the downtown area where the mayor welcomes them to the City Center auditorium with a presentation about city government; and the Park at City Center where the City’s fire and police department employees make a presentation; and to the Visitors Center at Historic Dean’s Store, where students learn about the city’s history and see first-hand how life used to be in their hometown.
Then, as now, there just isn’t enough time. So I’ll close with this word of thanks to the staff and faculty for all they do, and to those precious third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders who sang their Woodstock hearts out for Dr. Barge and the other visitors.
They were patient and attentive throughout the program. What students! And what a school!
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian.