Marietta City Schools, which encompasses eight elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school, welcomed back students for the 2013-14 school year Thursday. The district served 8,401 students last school year, according to state department of education records, and Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said they recorded about 8,200 on the district’s first day of classes.
Marietta High Principal Leigh Colburn said she, along with her teachers, students and parents dropping off their children, rolled up to their school covered in toilet paper, blue glow-in-the-dark pitchforks, which symbolize the school’s Blue Devil mascot, and doors covered in plastic wrap.
“It’s at least a 50-year tradition that’s always done by our seniors at least one day during the school year,” Colburn said. “I can only think of one other time in my time here that it was done on the first day of school though.”
Colburn has led the school, which had approximately 1,900 ninth- through 12th-grade students on campus Thursday, for nine years. Last March, the school had 1,975 enrolled.
“It’s a sign of excitement, affection and celebration,” she said about the school prank. “It’s not a destructive thing … we still had a great first day. It was a good, cheerful day.”
Students, who she said admitted to “decorating” the school overnight, volunteered to clean up the mess.
New principal has great first day
First-year principal Forrestella Taylor, who has worked in Marietta City Schools for 13 years serving in various roles, said her first day at Marietta Middle School went as expected.
“I think with any start of the year, you’re going to have your bumps and there are some things that we need to tweak but, all in all, it was a great day,” she said.
Taylor was named the seventh- and eighth-grade school’s new principal in July after Tim Jones accepted a position as principal at an all-boys high school in Atlanta Public Schools.
She said Marietta Middle had about 1,300 students registered. That number is slightly up from last March when it recorded an enrollment of 1,176.
Taylor said her school’s theme for the year is “Positive Behavior Intervention Support,” where they are giving students and teachers an opportunity to be rewarded for good choices.
“When we catch the kids doing something right, we can reward them,” she said.
“Something right” can range from behaving in the hallway or being respectful to others.
Rewards might come in the form of being able to sit wherever a student wants during lunch or not having to wear the required school attire for a day.
At the end of each month Taylor will have a drawing and students could receive bigger rewards like an iTunes gift card or an electronic device, all donated by the school’s Partners in Education sponsors.
“Also for our teachers, when we catch them meeting expectations, we want to make sure they know that we are aware of how hard they are working,” she said.
Teachers are eligible for end-of-the-month drawings and could win a half-day massage at a spa, movie tickets or a dinner for two, also donated by school sponsors.
Enrollment starts out higher than last year
Lembeck, who visited six of the city’s 11 schools Thursday morning, said from what she saw, the first day went smoothly.
“I started in the schools early this morning, early enough to see all the young children arrive with their parents and the teachers welcoming them and all the frenzies that surround it,” she said.
She wasn’t aware of problems at any of the schools.
“So far, nothing has reached my desk,” Lembeck said.
In looking at the initial enrollment numbers after the first day, Lembeck said it’s showing “significant” growth just on the first day of school compared to last year’s first day.
They registered 8,202 students, compared to 7,459 on the first day last year, she said, but enrollment data toward the end of the 2012-13 school year indicated a student population of 8,401.
“It will take at least another week until we feel secure on exactly the number of students we have enrolled,” Lembeck said. “We still have a number of students enrolling or withdrawing or are going to withdraw.”
She said the elementary schools are pretty maxed out and there’s been “exceptional growth” at that level. Marietta Center for Advanced Academics, which serves students in third through fifth grades, has a capacity of 320 and was at 315 Thursday.
She attributes the continued growth in Marietta’s enrollment to the district’s “buzz” being so positive.
“The programs that we provide for all students are really quality and something to be proud of,” she said.
This year marks the ninth that Lembeck has been Marietta’s superintendent. She started her career in the city system in 1988 as a first-grade teacher at West Side Elementary School.