The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Things will be different when school begins in Dayton on Aug. 24

 

August 12, 2021



DAYTON--Guy Strot sat down with me last week to talk about his first year as the Dayton School District Superintendent and Elementary School Principal and his thoughts about the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Just days after completing a 390-mile bike ride in California, from Crescent City to San Francisco, he said his legs were still a little sore.

“It was a lot hillier than I thought. And of the 390 miles, there were 300 miles with no shoulder, ranging from a six-inch shoulder, and 100 miles, and no shoulder. There was a white line and then a drop-off.”

He could have been speaking about his first year in Dayton schools, which was all but completely dominated by the Covid-19 situation.

“When I look back, Covid was there, but you just never thought it would impact everything to the degree it did. Covid just took over everything,” he said.

He wasn’t able to meet with parents and community members in their homes, as planned, and he couldn’t even meet with the school board in person.

None of it was what he wanted. He was more focused on meeting the requirements for having students on campus, working on the logistics of social distancing in classrooms and in the cafeteria, and working with teachers who were making plans for the probability school would need to be taught remotely.

“Everything else went by the wayside.”

Even though it was a crazy-making time, Strot said he was hugely pleased by the tremendous amount of support from students, parents, and staff and how adaptive they all were to the circumstances.

Strot is a lot less apprehensive coming into the next school year.

“It’s a known thing, now,” he said. “We have a year under our belt in terms of how to do things.”

With the first day of school just around the corner, Strot was feeling cautiously optimistic.

He said all students and staff will wear masks while inside. While he would like to be able to dispense with masks or for them to be optional, the State has taken that off the table. Work will continue meeting cleaning protocols and to meet the three feet guideline for social distancing.

On the day I sat down with him, new cases of COVID-19 in the county had risen to their highest number yet, at 25, and he and the staff were just beginning work on contingency plans if the schools closed because of a surge in the rate of infection.

“Overall, there is a willingness to move forward, and a willingness not to let masks or the procedures we had to go through define how we feel,” he said.

Strot said some pretty big things happened over the summer months.

He is somewhat concerned about the number of new teachers coming on board this year. Staff who retired or have resigned include a second-grade teacher, a kindergarten teacher, the HS Business teacher, the HS English teacher, the Spanish/Social Studies teacher, and both Special Education teachers.

The administrators are scrambling to hire replacements for them.

Jamie and Daniel Rushing have been hired to teach Title I and Fourth Grade, respectively.

Secondary Principal Kristina Brown was currently in the process of interviewing for teachers in the MS/HS.

One good piece of news, the newly hired Business teacher has a background in art. Art hasn’t been formally taught in Dayton Schools in several years, he said.

The administrators are looking at the master class schedule and hoping to create additional class offerings this year.

Strot said there would be more professional development offerings for staff, and because the district hasn’t had a Strategic Plan in a decade, the school board will begin work on that.

Last year, there were many challenges in student behavior and discipline, and steps have been taken to meet those challenges.

“I don’t think we gave the teachers as many tools as they needed last year,” Strot said. “This year, we will have a very established structure. We’re going to empower the teachers to help manage classrooms.”

Lunch detentions and after-school detentions in the HS Library and Saturday school are all options for teachers to use as they see fit. Any discipline measures will be done in partnership with parents, and there will be better notification to parents about behavior problems.

Additionally, a Behavior Specialist has been hired, along with a K-12 Counselor and a Prevention Intervention Counselor.

As we were speaking, a crew was stringing ten thousand feet of cable for 50 video cameras to be placed around the campus and outside every restroom. Chemical sensors are going to be installed as well. This will send a clear message to students about vaping, in general, and vaping on the school campus.

It is not meant to be punitive. Strot said there would be an emphasis on education.

Strot talked about the criticism he received from parents about the lack of communication coming from his office last year, which he characterized as “fair.” He is promising to do better this year.

He will now have more time for the duties of superintendent because the Dayton Elementary School has a new principal, Amy Cox.

“Being both superintendent and principal was tough,” he admitted.

He said he is looking forward to seeing students on campus again when school begins on Aug. 24, and any further challenges or obstacles will be met head-on.

 

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